At a loss as to what to do

Hi all, I'm new to this community but really would love some advice. I moved house in February, my old house was close to a small woodland surrounded by fields and I had a busy feeder from early morning until sunset all year round. Mainly tits, nuthatches and lesser woodpecker. I basically put up feeders the first day I got there and birds appeared.

My new house has been a different story! I'm still rural backing into fields with some big  trees but more houses and less woodland. There a nature reserve a mile away too. I've had various feeders up since moving in and have sporadic flurries but quite often empty feeders. For a very brief period I had a FULL garden and I was overwhelmed and overjoyed with greenfinch, chaffinches, house sparrows, tits, goldfinches, Robins, wrens, blackbirds, green woodpecker. I then got rats about a month ago which came out in the day and climbed onto my bird table so had to remove some of the feeders for a bit and put up a big seed catcher and some birds have come back but not all. I also now have a sparrowhawk that visits and perches on the feeding pole. 

My only constant visitors are a few tits, the occasional Robin and a charm of goldfinches who I love but seem really reluctant to come into the garden and fly around for ages before coming in. They hang out in the trees nearby for hours sometimes. 

I just don't know how to get my full garden of birds back, even the blackbirds are rarely coming. I have a bird table with mealworm, peanut feeder and fat balls. Another feeding pole station with sunflower hearts in a feeder and a tray, a suet block and Nijer seed feeder. A bird bath and another water bowl. Both situated near cover. I clean regularly. 

I just hate staring out at an empty feeder, it makes me so sad! 

Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm at a loss. 

Thank you

  • Hi Gemini and welcome to the community forum. Sounded like you have some fantastic bird visitors at your last garden with Nuthatches and you say, if I understand correctly, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker ? which is amazing.

    As far as your new garden area goes, it does sound as if you have good habitat for all manner of bird species if you are still rural and backing onto fields and with mature trees, despite more houses in the area. I think with a regular sparrowhawk visitor around the birds will naturally be more wary and if you still have rats visiting, it is no good removing some of the feeders for a short time; my suggestion (only my own opinion) would be to remove all feeders completely for a month or a little more which will temporarily have the opposite affect of what you want with lots of garden birds which will disperse for a while and find other sources of food including the plentiful natural foods to be found in the area with autumn berries/seeds, etc.... This will deter the sparrowhawk from frequenting your garden on such regular basis as there are less birds for it to prey on and it should deter any vermin around which will also seek food elsewhere. Once you have given it a few weeks and before the much colder winter weather arrives, you will be able to reinstate your feeders (preferably with baffle domes on the feeder poles along with the seed catchers that you already have, which will prevent rats climbing up to the food or bird feeding table) but suggest just one or two feeders to start with and monitor what happens. As the cold sets in the birds will return, I have no doubt about that, as they seek an easy source of food in the winter months.
    It is good you have a strict cleaning regime for feeders as so many people who think they are doing right in feeding garden birds don't think about the diseases that dirty feeders can hold and it can cause more detriment to the birds than offering no food at all, so it is good that you do already understand the necessity to keep areas and feeders clean. In the meantime, don't worry the birds will not starve as there is an abundance of natural food for them at this time of year and within a few weeks you will hopefully be welcoming the birds back again without daily visits from a sparrowhawk or any visits from mice/rats.
    I understand that you are eager to see the garden birds back en-masse immediately but give it time with these measures and you will be rewarded eventually and at a time when the birds will be in winter months and requiring that easy to access food from your feeders. Good luck and once again, welcome to the community forum.


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Welcome to the forum, Gemini, and best of luck with your birds. I cannot add anything to Hazel's suggestions and as she says, you might need patience. Removing feeders for a minimum of 3 weeks or more should disperse the rats and careful repositioning of feeder poles and installing baffles beneath any feeders should prevent rats and squirrels from stealing the bird food. I wonder if perhaps there are more natural and/or human-provided opportunities in your new neighbourhood for birds to find food than at your previous place and your current birds are busy doing the rounds of your locality and not visiting each local garden very often or for very long. It may be that the feeders at your old place were the only or the best source of food for birds there. Please let us know how you get on.

    Kind regards, 


  • Thank you Hazel and Ann,

    Thank you for your replies and lovely advice. The rats were dealt with very quickly as we had a nest at the end of our garden so in terms of daytime visitors they are no longer an issue. I do wonder if the sparrowhawk is an issue, he has only been a few times though but I imagine it's quite off-putting!

    I'm not particularly good at patience (as you may be able to tell) but I will try my best!

    I think the odd thing is that it was quiet from Feb to July, then I put a new feeder up in August and it was in fact suddenly busier than my old house, then we got rats in Sept and now it's just quiet. The goldfinches are always around but seem reluctant to come until the garden but as you say maybe it's patience!

    Thanks again, it's so nice to talk to people who loves birds as much as me.