I have been asked this question by Toni –

I have recently bought an RSPB Classic birdtable which has very wide open sides. 

My previous one which rotted had 4 arched openings.  I have a beech hedge adjacent to the table which is home to dozens of sparrows and dunnocks which used to frequent my table.  Sometimes there would be dozens of them along the edges and on the table. 

I got doves feeding on the ground and one dove could fit uncomfortably on the table but didn’t deter the smaller birds.  I also got robins & chaffinches. 

The new table had a black plastic removable tray and I knew it would be a while before the sparrows would be brave enough to use it.  I had to have a new feeding tray put on my old feeder some years ago and it had been varnished and I think the smell put them off and I know they are very cautious and suspicious and it was about five days before the sparrows would use it.

However, what happened with the new table was that the doves found a way to drop down from the ridged roof which they could sit on and turn around in the air and get on the table and eventually the table would have a half dozen doves and sometimes a pigeon on it.  So the sparrows didn’t even try to use it. 

In about 5 weeks I saw a sparrow about three times on the table and almost instantly doves would come and it would disappear.  The doves would be waiting on the roofs of adjacent houses in the morning and as soon as they saw me put on the food they would descend.  

I discussed the problem with the RSPB and have stopped feeding the birds altogether for the time being to get rid of the doves but I know they are out there and the pigeons.  I see them on my neighbours’ bird table.  I thought I would try to guard the table on some way with either wooden trellis cut to size (like a curtain) hanging on hooks from the roof which I could lift up like on a hinge and put seed on the table and remove the tray for cleaning;  or perhaps make panels or a cage with square  plastic covered fencing. 

I am really sad as I have been feeding this sparrow population for very many years and used to get such a lot of joy from them.  I’ve read the various comments on pigeon proofing my table like the canes but I’m not convinced that would keep the doves out.  I did try bracing some short canes from the inside of the roof to the opposite side of the bottom of the table.  I put four crossing one another but the doves still got on the table and either knocked the canes off or just managed to squeeze in and eat. 

I’m desperate for a solution.  Does anyone have any really practical and tested ideas.  I did write the RSPB but didn’t get any very helpful feedback.  Help.


This is my reply, but advice and ideas always welcome –

Thanks for getting in touch.  I have had a struggle with large birds pinching the food for years now. 
One way I have found is to put garden canes around the birdtable.  Your problem is that the birds come down from the roof, but if they cannot balance because canes are there it may work.  The smaller birds can get through the canes, but the larges ones cannot.  Here is a link  to an article.
At the bottom of the article is a photo of the canes round my birdtable.  They do get blown about a bit, but I’ve found this is the best way.  It allows blackbirds and thrushes to get in.  One other way is to just use caged bird feeders
For years I’ve had pigeons, rooks and crows descend when I put bird food out.  We just can’t afford it can we?
Making a cage  with square  plastic covered fencing is a good idea. 
I can imagine that you feel really sad, especially as you have been  feeding this sparrow population for very many years

I don’t think it’s any good you waiting until the doves go away.  A practical solution is needed. 
Could you buy a hanging feeder and put it in the hedge.  I have hanging feeders and birds soon get the hang of them.
Here is another link showing a ground feeder that has a cage round it. It also shows my canes round the bird table

Here are some more ideas from readers  – 
I would first of all like to thank Trish for her inspiration.

I cannot stand grey pigeons, as they finish enough food to feed 4 or 5 of the smaller birds in my garden. So through searching for advice on how to keep pigeons away from the bird table I stumbled upon Trish’s idea of placing canes around the table.

I thought I might take this a step further and incorporate the canes into the table itself creating a more aesthetically pleasing table. I ended up purchasing a table  along with a strip of floor edging to act as my canes.
Instead of boring you with the details of how I made the table pigeon proof, I thought I might post pictures up instead (as soon as I know how) which are self-explanatory.

The pigeons have tried to enter the ‘house’ but being too big they couldn’t balance on any part of the table apart from the roof.

All other birds however have been enjoying the treats I have put out for them which in previous days would have been finished by the pigeons before the smaller birds even got a taste. This has all been happening while the pigeons sit on the fence and wonder how they are going to enter, but all their attempts have failed!
Thanks Trish!
(Pics up soon!)


What a lovely comment.   It’s wonderful how practical ideas can be spread by the Internet.

Toni here is another idea

April 2010  – Another way to help small birds from Arlene

My bird table has a roof and has been enclosed by my husband on three sides by the largest plastic mesh I  could find~ the open side nearest the lounge window.

It took  awhile for them to get used to it but they hop through as though it wasn’t there now.
All the little birds hop through the mesh or through the side bits under the roof and the bigger birds such as Blackbirds come round the back.


Let me know what you think


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