Blog, Lifestyle

To feed or not to feed?

Now I’ve successfully caused the Bard to turn in his grave…

My very clever partner has just made me a stunning bird feeder out of an old hat stand that I found abandoned on the side of the road. ..Yes, I’m one of those people who pulls over and picks fly-tipped items out of the hedges. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure… I love it. And after just a couple of weeks of it residing in our garden the birds have felt brave enough to start using it!

We have Colin (to my brother-in-law of the same name please take this as a compliment) and Norma the pigeons, a male blackbird and his wifey, numerous starlings, a Blue Tit (or two), a very nervous Great Tit, and a Jenny Wren who hops along our fence and tries her hardest to look incredibly small.

Watching the birds in my garden in Shaftesbury brings me joy but now that weather is warming up there is lots of natural food available for the birds to find. The question is, should I keep feeding? Research on the web shows of contradictory information on this subject.

Bird feeding is most helpful at times when birds need the most energy, such as during temperature extremes, migration, and in late winter or early spring, when natural sources are depleted. Shorter daylight hours also mean that birds have less time to search for the food that they need in order to survive.

An article by the British Trust for Ornithology states that ‘there is no discernible evidence that garden feeders create dependency (other than during extreme weather conditions). On the contrary, research suggests that food gathered at feeders typically makes up less than 20% of the diet of Blue Tits in winter, and, irrespective of how readily available feeders are, parent birds almost exclusively feed their chicks on natural food stuffs.’

Great news! There is no reason to suggest that feeders cause birds to lose their ability to forage for natural foods. I can continue to happily use my feeders without the worry that I could be affecting the welfare of the garden birds.

Which leads me to ask what we should be feeding our garden birds now?

During Spring and Summer birds require high protein foods because they’re moulting. The RSPB recommends black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, mealworms, waxworms, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, and good seed mixtures without loose peanuts (as they pose a choking hazard to chicks).

Birds can also have soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes. Commercially produced fat balls are suitable for summer feeding but make sure that you discard any remains after three weeks.

Remember to clean your feeders regularly. You can clean all of your feeders with warm, soapy water and a bottle brush. Scrape any old bird food off of your bird table and use the bird-friendly disinfectant Ark-Klens to make sure its nice and clean. Good hygiene will prevent disease and keep your garden birds healthy.