Creating a safe space for birds

There’s nothing nicer than the sight and sound of birds in the garden. But when cats share the garden space it leads to some anxious moments.

Birds naturally visit the garden looking for food and water, so why not make that available in a way that is safer for the birds and out of reach of the cats?

Tips for feeders

Set up feeders at least 2m  away from dense shrubs, hedges or bushes that provide cover for the cats. To make the feeders inaccessible, put the feeder on a metal or hard plastic pole, that doesn’t provide a grip for the cat’s claws.

The design of the feeder also makes a big difference. The Wild Wings range of suet feeders includes wire holders for suet balls, a terracotta bowl, and suet slab holder with a roof to keep it dry and a thin ledge. Birds can perch, hang or sit while eating, and try as hard as they like, no cat will be able to cling onto the feeder.

Suet is a high fat and protein feed that helps birds to maintain their energy levels and keep warm during the frosty nights. Using a suet feeder allows the birds to only peck small amounts at a time.

When it comes to bird seed, it’s a no brainer that having a feeder is much safer than scattering seed on the ground.

The secret is put out just enough seed, so that it doesn’t overflow and spill on the ground. This also ensures that the seed stays fresh and doesn’t become mouldy which is toxic for the birds.

The Wild Wings mix of grains/seeds includes sunflower seeds for birds with larger bills as well as smaller grains and black oil sunflower seeds for smaller birds.

Rustic wooden seed and fruit feeders that have a flat bottom  are easy to install on a strong pole. They can also be suspended from the end of a thin, but sturdy branch that cats can’t get to.

Make sure the feeders have a narrow perch or a narrow roof overhang to discourage pigeons as well.

Knock a nail or two  through the base of the feeder to act as spikes on which to push the fruit.

One of the problems of open feeders is that the birds can spill the seed onto the ground, but the Wild Wings Patio Feeder has a glass front that acts as a ‘seed tank’, letting a limited amount of seed through at the base.

Sweep up or brush away seed spills so that birds are not encouraged to forage on the ground.

Water bottles not birdbaths

Water is essential for birds but bird baths are clearly not a good idea if there are cats in the vicinity.

Rather use Wild Wing nectar bottles that can be hung from a branch and angled to ensure a constant supply of water. A nearby bottle filled with nectar fills the gap in winter when there is little in flower.

Wild Wings Nectar mix is available in powder form (just add water) and is preferable to ready-made mixes. Mixing small amounts ensures that the nectar in the feeder is always fresh. Do not add any red dye, including that found in food colouring. The dye is potentially toxic to birds.

It’s always a good idea to have a few feeders in the garden with different types of food to meet the birds differing needs, and to limit competition.

Cat distractions

Having done all that some other options are to use collar bells or brightly coloured collars on the cats to alert birds. Look for ways to minimise interaction with birds. Keep the cats indoors when the birds are active, put out tasty treats for them or discourage potential hunters with a light spray from the garden hose.

Whatever methods you choose, it is never acceptable to take steps to deliberately harm any animals.

Creating a  safe space for birds- The Citizen

By Alice Coetzee