Wild Bird Seed Survey

17 January 2011 I'm sick of wasting money on birdseed that birds in my gaden don't eat!

This is a survey of what seeds birds do or do not eat in my garden in rural Somerset, UK. My objective is to learn what food best suits the birds in my garden - and my wallet.

There are 3 questions I want to answer.

  1. Which brand of mixed seed do the birds prefer?
  2. Would I be better off buying separate seeds?
  3. If so, which seeds are preferred?

24 January 2011 In an attempt to get a seed mix containing a greater proportion of seeds that the birds might be willing to eat I bought a sack of Harrison's ‘Premier Wild Bird Mix’. Harrisons are not my bête noire; their's is the only bird seed the retailer stocks, but along with all others I have tried, their product is more than half composed of stuff rejected by the birds in my garden - see image 6!

30 January 2011 My first task was to establish which of the various individual seeds the birds in my garden actually prefer. Needing several small seed feeders and not wishing to do anything to damage the UK balance of trade I made my own. I don't give a hoot for the opinion of either Pigeons or Collared Doves so wanted a feeder that would hopefully deter them and larger birds from feeding from them. One picture being worth a thousand words, Image 7 shows feeders I made which I shall refer to as DISH feeders.

4 February 2011 So far, since introducing the dish feeders, swarms of Blue Tits, a few Great Tits and the occasional Robin have actually fed from them directly. Timid Chaffinches and a rabble of Sparrows have scratted about beneath the dish feeders in company with Black Birds, Pigeons and the odd Dunnock. But today, I have seen a female Chaffinch overcome her timidity and venture onto the feeders. The message seems to be getting through!

5 February 2011 At the end of nearly a week the regulars at the new feeders remain Blue Tits, Great Tits, an occasional female Chaffinch and a Robin. Only one Robin seen at a time, with no opportunist rival seen lurking so I suspect it is the same individual. Likewise the female Chaffinch; an increasingly regular visitor on the feeders but I have only ever seen one at a time. Her female companions and all the males remain earthbound. There are occasional Coal Tits as well. STOP PRESS! I can now add Greenfinch to the list. This is particularly gratifying; having been plentiful till a couple of years ago, they have been in short supply of late. There are at least two.

7 February 2011 Another Monday. Nothing much to report. Still feeding mixed commercial bird seed while awaiting supply of separate seed. I have made 2 slight modifications to the new feeders neither of which appears to have deterred the birds; I have numbered each feeder and given the tubes feet so they are all the requisite ½ inch clear of the dish without relying on the tubes being kept the correct distance off the dishes by the wires alone. See right in Image 12.

14 Febuary 2011 "Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make." The birds in my garden were doing much the same. Frenzied feeding with many displays of rivalry and some birds gathering nesting materials. More than one Robin now visits the feeders. Male chaffinches and female sparrows also now venture onto the dish feeders occasionally but they feed in greater numbers off the ground. Greenfinches are profficient stokers, shovelling grain overboard from the dish and other feeders by the beakfull. Mercifully, "it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath" where, being "twice blessed it blesseth him that gives and him that takes." The takers include Sparrows, Chaffinches, Dunnocks, and the bigger birds from Blackbirds upwards.