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Birds The easiest way to encourage birds into the garden is to feed them. This can be done in two ways. Either put food out on feeders or grow plants that will feed the birds, or will support the insects they need. As birds can become dependant on feeders, they must not be allowed to run dry. Neigbours are often happy to refill them during the holiday season. Bird Tables These should be sited in a safe palce, away from cover, where cats could hide, and high enough to prevent cats jumping up on them. They should be situated not too near to the house but close enough to observe through a window, and close to a path to allow access for Winter feeding. Food should also be left on the floor, in hangers, and pushed into crevices. The Menu Sunflower seeds, wild bird food mixes, peanuts, raisons, cheese, berries, mealworms, and breadcrumbs will all be welcomed by different types of birds. Over-ripe fruit will also be enjoyed, anything not eaten will be finished by insects. Food can be given the whole year, as many birds would not survive without it. Plants Most fruit trees and bushes will be enjoyed by birds, leaving a portion netted for human consumption. Not only is the fruit eaten by the birds, but also the blossom and the insects it attracts. Holly also feeds a great many birds when it bears its berries. Some birds prefer dry seeds rather than berries. Birches, alders, pines, beeches, and ashes are good feeders, but can be rather large. For the smaller garden thistle is a good plant, but legally classed as a weed in Britain. Wearing thick gloves, collect the seed heads and hang them over a paved area. Some seeds may blow into the garden, but most should be eaten. Sunflowers can grow a good crop of seeds in the autumn, but they don't begin to ripen until the foliage begins to die back. By then the plants can look very untidy, so a good idea is to cut the head off and hang it up like a feeder. Nest Boxes In an area where nesting sites are limited, nest boxes can be very successful. There are different types to suit different birds, so they should be chosen carefully for whatever species are local to the area. They should be protected from wet winds and full sun, ideally in full shade, and reasonably well hidden, but not inaccessible. A minimum of two metres high should protect them from most ground-based predators, including humans. A good view from the box is essential for the birds to spot predators; and anything that can be done to prevent cats from entering the garden must be done. Nesting Material Although it is not necessary to provide material for the boxes, it can be useful. Wool, feathers, dried grass, pet hair, and small sticks on a specially constructed table or hanging in a peanut feeder will be used, and can be enjoyable to watch. Some birds use mud for their nests, so keeping a patch of soil constantly wet will also be appreciated in spring