Don’t stop feeding the birds

Don’t stop feeding the birds

Among the regular visitors to our garden over the past year or so, we’ve seen blackbirds, greenfinches, bluetits, great tits, sparrows, chaffinches, redstarts, wood pigeons, collared doves, serins, bullfinches, goldfinches, wrens and robins. And once, a woodpecker that seemed as surprised to be there as we were to see it.

At the moment, the birds are pretty much eating us out of house and home; or, as the Germans say, they are “eating the hairs from our heads”. They manage to get through about five kilos of sunflower seeds in about a week, which is something that would have Alfred Hitchcock interested. Most days, anyone stepping out into the garden is likely to be startled by the loud whirring of wings as thirty sparrows take fright and head for the relative safety of the hedge or the neighbour’s garden.

Despite the fact that the blackbirds are also eating all our strawberries and the sparrows nibbling our lettuces, we’re quite happy to see them in our garden, as most birds tend to eat pests while they are here. But this number of birds is… a bit much.

There are probably several reasons for the current immigration rate to our feeders. We had a long, hard winter, and that seems to have had a detrimental effect on the insect population — unless the birds have been eating them, but we haven’t seen many bees either.

But perhaps the main reason is that we’re probably the only people in a 100-mile radius who are still feeding them. There’s a general perception that birds are to be fed during the winter, and as soon as the sun comes out, you should stop feeding them. Well, no, actually, you shouldn’t; especially after the winter we’ve just had.

This year, because the winter lasted so long, the mass dereliction of duty coincided with the hatching of eggs, leaving parent birds suddenly without the otherwise very reliable food source they’d come to rely on. Imagine: they built their nests where there was food, and as soon as the young’uns hatched — famine.

So please, people, do us all a favour. Either don’t feed birds at all during the winter, or continue feeding them until at least late summer. Pulling the plug on free food just when they need it most is a rotten thing to do.

Or at the very least, help us carry the sacks of bird-feed from the shops.