A BANQUET FOR BIRDS

An Article by Mike Stentiford, MBE

These days, as long as bird feeders are regularly kept fully stocked and hygienically looked after, birds are guaranteed to remain ever faithful and loyal to any hospitable garden.

 

 

ONE Sunday morning, way back in the early 1800s, a vicar in a small village in Somerset stood in the pulpit and advocated the pleasures derived from offering scraps of leftover food to wild birds. The congregation took such great exception to this remarkably radical suggestion that they boycotted all church services for the following three weeks.

How times for us, and fortunes for wild birds, have changed!

These days, a garden bird’s lot has rarely been greater as veritable banquets of calorie-rich goodies are laid out before them on a daily basis.

Providing bird feeders are regularly kept fully stocked and hygienically sound, birds are guaranteed to remain ever faithful and loyal to any hospitable garden.

I can personally vouch for this, especially when it comes to Great tits and Blue tits, agile and colourful species that never fail to delight. Their constant devotion to my Jersey garden is entirely due to the provision of the three most essential ingredients in life – shelter, food and water.

As any enthusiastic wildlife gardener will know, shelter belts of thick shrubbery allied to one or two carefully placed nest-boxes are likely to prove a dream come true to many species of familiar garden bird. Complement these necessary requirements with a bird-bath and a range of seed and nut hoppers and, before you can say ‘pass the millet’, birdlife becomes an integral part of any garden.

Setting the Garden Table

The most important thing to remember is that looking after your garden birds is a serious business. There’s likely to be little payback if food is put out only on the odd occasion so, once you’ve decided to take on this pleasurable responsibility, make sure that the feeders are regularly kept in tip-topped-up condition.

What quickly becomes apparent is that while certain species take to the seed or peanut feeders with great relish, others have neither a wish nor the ability to take advantage of them. These are ground feeding birds such as Blackbird, Song thrush, Wren and Hedge sparrow (Dunnock). Although primarily insect eaters, each one will take readily to a scattering of small seeds such as pinhead oatmeal and millet.

Breaking the rules slightly is the Robin, a bird that’s as happy on the ground as it is balanced on a feeder.

However, it’s a fact of life that just like us, garden birds generally have individual preferences when it comes to selecting what’s best on the menu.

While Greenfinches go ‘ga-ga’ over sunflower hearts and Chaffinches chomp merrily on our Four Seasons Feeder Seed, the recent seedy popularity of nyjer continues to prove ever more  irresistible to Goldfinches – once referred to, incidentally, as the ‘five coloured linnet’.

Peanuts, on the other hand, seem to be a universal all-rounder providing, as is their wont, sufficiently high levels of calories to keep most garden birds – Long-tailed tits especially – in tip-top feather-fine condition.

With such a variety of bird food to choose from, it often pays dividends to offer your birds a sort of pick ‘n’ mix, an initiative that quickly shows their seedy likes and nutty dislikes.

It’s often surprising, for instance, that while most members of the tit family take readily to the energy fat balls, Robins much prefer to tuck into a handful of mealworms.

It is, after all, simply a matter of taste although fortunately for garden birds, both the choice and the taste are truly impressive.

Morning Melodies

Your commitment towards supplementary feeding will be rewarded tenfold when the successful results manifest themselves into springtime bird song.

The individual songsters in this magical annual ‘free concert’ are likely to be tuning up during the coming weeks and, with your help, they should be in the very finest of voice.

Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine a more glorious way of recouping such worthy efforts than by enjoying the spectacularly melodic dawn chorus – and that’s a fact!

 


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