Thursday, 14 October 2010

Feed the Birds

Regular followers will have seen in many of my photos a small hanging bird-table, and a cylindrical bird-feeder for holding seeds. Here they are with a Squirrel investigating them. So you will know that we feed the birds...

Bird-table and bird-feeder
Whenever there are any non-veg kitchen scraps (like meat trimmings, for instance), we put these out for the birds. Most often it is the Magpies that get the biggest share -- these big noisy, aggressive birds are always on the scrounge, and as soon as they see anything being put out they are in there straight away to snatch it up.

We often put out bread for the birds, usually the stale bits that we haven't got round to eating, and when we do it goes in two places -- some of it on the bird-table, and some of it on the ground below. This is because some birds, such as Blackbirds, prefer to forage at ground level and seldom come to the table. We don't normally buy bread specifically for feeding the birds -- usually only if the weather is exceptionally severe, as it was in the Spring of this year. When the weather is very cold the birds use a lot of energy, and if conditions are icy for protracted periods, birds can find it hard to get enough to eat because their food is all frozen solid.

Couldn't resist putting this pic in again -- my friendly young Robin
I also put out seeds for the smaller birds, like tits and finches. There are masses of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches in our area, and in the Winter we also get frequent visits from Greenfinches and Goldfinches. The Goldfinches are my favourite because they have such attractive plumage, with the very distinctive red patches on their heads. They are also voracious eaters of sunflower kernels! They normally stay on the perches either side of the bird-feeder and eat lots of seeds in succession. They are very adept at stripping off the husks of the sunflower seeds; you can see them spitting out the bits they don't like. The other birds tend to come to the bird-feeder, remove one seed and take it away somewhere else to eat, before returning for another.

I have tried various seed mixes, but the seed that all the little birds seem to enjoy best is the sunflower, so these days I usually only get those. The birds tend to "turn up their noses" at the mixed seeds now, and you can almost hear them saying "Wot! No sunflower seeds? Stingy humans. What do they take us for -- fools?"

Sunflower seeds in the sort of quantities that our birds get through can be quite expensive when bought in small packets. Fortunately, a few months ago Jane won a nice prize in a competition: a 15kg sack of bird-seed (which to contains a high proportion of sunflower kernels).

The prize sack of bird-seed
A close-up of the label, showing contents

If you're interested in birds and how to help them, you can get more information from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).  I recently sent for their free booklet called "The Birds in your Garden", which is a very informative and attractively-presented item. Here's a link...

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