It's a question which crops up periodically and especially when customers are purchasing our bird food at Nantwich market. It's a good question and one I would - in principle - agree with!
I fundamentally agree with the question because in my view all garden birds should have access to an abundance of naturally occurring food sources. However, it is apparent that humans are having quite an impact on the environment and one which is negative to wildlife.
Changes in agriculture (how we grow and farm our own food); depletion of hedgerows in favour of efficient farming; land acquisition for large scale building projects; over use and dependency of pesticides for the crops we do farm (either food based or otherwise), all cause problems for our native species of wild birds. If you think back just 30-40 years (those of us who are old enough!) I'm sure you will recall fields full of crops and herds of cattle (remember - cattle excrete waste and waste is fantastic for creating an abundance of insects so beloved of wild birds!). A lot of our base-food items are sourced globally in an ever increasing bid to maximize profits for huge corporations with massive wealth, power and political influence! I have problems accepting that it is cheaper to ship container loads of base-food items thousands of miles, when we have farmers in the UK which are struggling to survive, have to diversify into other forms of business through pressure or, have closed entirely! It's a travesty and failure of the political system we have in this country!
With this in mind it becomes ever more apparent that garden birds really do require our help and that a garden becomes an important source of food for their survival. It's even more important to make food available to wild birds during the winter and spring due to the extra strain placed on them in high demand periods. Just surviving winter itself is a huge undertaking for birds; spring has the extra demand of raising one or more broods when food is still relatively scarce. In fact, naturally occurring food is only relatively plentiful from the end of July through to mid October time, or thereabouts, and can be observed by the decline in birds visiting your feeders - returning when the weather becomes colder and when their seasonal molt has come to pass.
Please remember that once you make food available to garden birds that it is important to provide it year round, as they will soon become reliant on it. Past advice suggested feeding birds in winter and to withdraw food during the summer months. That advice is now outdated and all wildlife organisation now agree that food should be offered all year to sustain them through the peaks and troughs of the seasons. A sudden withdrawal of food, even for a short time, and especially during the winter months can seriously jeopardise their survival. Try to organise someone to feed your garden birds if you are going away. A plentiful supply of clean fresh water is also essential throughout the year.
Feeding garden birds is one of the few pastimes we can indulge in which truly benefits something beyond our selves. It helps wildlife, it educates our children, it's interesting, makes our garden more beautiful, lowers our blood pressure and, ultimately, makes us better human beings in a world which seems to revolve around us as a species.
If we remember one thing in our busy and hectic lives...it's that we are not the only species on this wonderful and beautiful planet; that we can, and should, consider the 'other' inhabitants of this world. We share earth, not own it!
Hi. I'm Phil Stokes and I'll be blogging on here about what's new and happening at Gala Wildlife. Come back for updates.