Where to put the food
Bird Table: a bird table is a convenient place to put out food. It doesn't have to be an elaborate structure - just a 40cm square of exterior grade plywood, preferably with a ridge around the edges, screwed onto a 1.7m post (sunk about 40cm into the ground) is sufficient. It is important to place the table in the right spot. You will want to watch and study the birds, so it needs to be not too far from the house, perhaps, for example, a few feet from the kitchen window.
Cats can be a real nuisance, so bushes and trees should be more than a leap away from the table - a minimum of 2 metres. An inverted metal cone or biscuit tin around the post of a birdtable will make it difficult for cats to climb up (it may also stop squirrels climbing up too!). Instead of being fixed to a post, a table could also be fixed to a wall or a window-sill.
OTHER PLACES; some garden birds are reluctant to feed several feet above the ground. Dunnocks and wrens, for example, prefer to scratch around on the ground, so scatter food for them on the open ground around the bird table. Nuts, fat and coconuts can be hung either from the table or from branches of trees.
(i) once you begin putting out food, birds will be attracted from quite a wide area and they will come to rely on you; if you suddenly stop feeding, some of these birds may die, unable to find enough food to survive.
(ii) put food out at regular times - first thing in the morning is probably the best time so that there is a supply of food ready for the hungry birds emerging from a cold night.
(iii) don't overfeed and leave uneaten food lying around during the night. Accumalation of stale food can cause health problems for the birds and attract rats and mice.
Birds need water to drink and bathe in. They must be able to keep their feathers clean in order to keep warm in severe weather. A shallow-edged pond is an ideal watering place for birds, but an upturned dustbin lid or flowerpot base will do just as well. Sink the container into the ground or raise it up on bricks to stop it wobbling about. Keep the water clean and fresh to avoid disease. In very cold weather, keep the bath clear of ice. If the bath is made of metal or stone, a night-light underneath stops ice forming. Do not put antifreeze or salt in the water!