Feed the birds.

‘Tits like coconuts’ might sound like the perfect prompt for comedy material, but it is a serious matter.

The weather may currently be mild, but the winter can throw a cold spell at us at any time, and with garden bird numbers diminishing rather alarmingly, this is the time of year when our feathered friends need a little support.

Starlings may be noisy bastards, and sparrows and thrushes might appear to be nothing more than ‘little brown jobs’, but all are in serious decline. Because we see them every day it is easy to overlook the fact that their numbers have dropped by more than 80% in the last thirty years.

This is why everyone should FEED THE BIRDS.


Do not feed the birds.

Do not feed the birdsThe activity of feeding the birds must be tackled with a little intelligence, so for those of you who lack a little intelligence I will write slowly so you can keep up.

Having just said that we must feed the birds, there are times when we must not feed the birds. Most notably, when we are stood within reading distance of a sign that says DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS. These signs are usually encountered at the seaside and refer to the feeding of seagulls. (Yes, I know that there is no such species as a Sea Gull, but I use the term in a generic sense to refer to the big white noisy fuckers that swoop and steal our Granddaughter’s ice cream.)

This activity of daylight robbery is becoming ever more prevalent and is giving the birds a very bad reputation. ‘Flying rats’ is a term often used, usually by people who think it their duty to try to poison them because they had the audacity to land on the roof of their house.

“They tear the bin bags apart and make a mess,” people protest, grinning as they plot the cruelest way to kill them. Here’s an idea for you… DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS! By this, I mean don’t leave bin bags out for them to peck at. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a bag full of chicken carcass, pizza crusts and chips will smell like a fancy restaurant to an intelligent opportunistic species. In this scenario, I think we all know who the genius is.

Everyone marvels at the ingenuity of clever species, and we all love to see squirrels completing assault courses. After any TV documentary about the world’s cleverest animals people will be chatting for days about crows that can solve problems and donkeys that do crosswords. Even in their own homes people love to build relationships with wild animals and love it when a friendly robin becomes tame enough to take food from the hand. And yet, when a seagull takes someone’s pasty from the hand the victim launches into some sort of demented morris dance and tries to dropkick the bird across the promenade. If only humans were as intelligent as animals. It doesn’t take membership of Mensa to realise that if you teach a bird to eat human food it will try to eat human food. DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS!

Fuck a duck.

Not only does this cause a problem for the seaside visitors as they try to fend off attacks from gulls with a taste for battered sausage and chips, but it is incredibly harmful for the birds themselves. For example, Eider are one of our prettiest ducks and because they look nice and do not flee in the presence of humans we tend to think they are ‘friendly’ and asking for a snack. Also, as everyone knows, if an animal lives by the sea, it obviously loves fish and chips. This propensity to throw leftovers to the birds not only imprints a dependency upon them, but is causing them to suffer a calcium deficiency. Calcium is a vital component in the formation of egg shell, and therefore, its absence in the adult bird’s diet is leading to the eggs failing. Strangely, it seems that a species evolved to dive for crustaceans and molluscs such as mussels has considerably different dietary requirements to the average seaside tourist. Your idea of a balanced diet may be a hot dog in one hand and a 99 in the other, but it will do little good to the balance of nature. DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS!

eider photo

Keep it to yourself.

And this applies to all birds, not just ducks, so, as much as Rick Stein’s ‘cod and chips, bread and butter and a cup of tea’ may be delicious, it is something best enjoyed and kept to oneself. DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS!


Garden goodness.

If you want to feed the birds, please do it properly, with some fat balls, seeds or mealworms.
And remember, as the saying goes… tits like coconuts.

great tit photo

For advice and information about feeding the birds in your garden Vine House Farm is a great source of information as well as a supplier of all you need to do it.

Photo by Dave Hamster

Photo by chapmankj75