Posts Tagged ‘small grains’

Feeding the Song Birds

February 28, 2014

Things that healthy birds do not need – beware what is put on the bird table!

The advice being passed down to the bird loving public, often takes no account of the biology of the birds!

Birds are like humans, they will flock to eat stuff that is really bad for them.  Research work over the past 50 years on bird rearing agrees with me, and demonstrates that a diet of fat results in increased deposits of internal fat especially around the gonads.  This problem is made worse by the fact that the body uses fat as a storage organ, it is in the fat that any chemical pesticides that don’t kill the birds outright, will end up.  This reduces fertility in all species, and so will lead to a further decline in song bird populations.

If you think about it, the only birds that kill fat animals or birds, or that you see on ‘road kill’ are the raptors and corvids.  These are not normally the birds that you want to attract to your bird table as they have a habit of killing the smaller song birds.  Likewise, our birds do not naturally crack open nuts for the very simple reason that the only nuts native to this country are hazelnuts and pine nuts.  The former are so hard that only squirrels and mice can get into them; whereas the latter are eaten by the Crossbills – whose beaks are specially adapted to winkling the pine nuts out of the pine cones.  The little Goldcrests and Firecrests that also breed and shelter in coniferous forest, are feeding on aphids, springtails, small flies, grubs, and pollen, but not the nuts that they could never reach!

For a healthy song bird population, try to give your garden birds more of the foods that grow naturally in this country.  Remember too that very few, if any, birds are complete vegetarians.  They do eat small grains, seeds and berries in the autumn, but for most of the year, they feed on whatever insects, worms and grubs that they can find, supplemented by a peck or two of annual herbs e.g. dandelion leaves.  So in the winter, supplement their natural food with small grains etc; but better still, do all you can to promote small insects, bugs, spiders, worms and fresh leaf growth e.g. of dandelions etc.  These are all really good for the birds in this country, and will not cause them to lay down unnatural fat around their internal organs.

The other thing that is needed by over-wintering birds is natural cover.  Dense thickets of brambles are excellent, providing both cover and insects; while standing under our line of Lawson cypress trees at my own home on a winter’s evening, revealed the song birds’ favourite spot.  They would congregate up in the branches under the thick evergreen cover of the conifers and chirp away, warm and dry.  Yesterday, visiting a friend in Taunton, I was horrified to see that the Somerset CC had been busy removing a bramble thicket along an area that they had designated as wildlife habitat beside the River Tone – so much for their knowledge of wildlife.  Plus of course, they have removed the possibility of the thousands of humans in the area being able to pick blackberries that are not wrapped in plastic containers, and to actually make their own blackberry and apple jam.  The wild eaters of the blackberries are mostly little field mice, while the birds feast on the spiders and flies that are also attracted to the fruit!