Country Corner

A male siskin, a bird of coniferous woodlands which has only formed the habit of visiting bird feeders in recent years.
A male siskin, a bird of coniferous woodlands which has only formed the habit of visiting bird feeders in recent years.

Although many of you feed your garden birds all year, I suspect many more only do so in winter as I do.

From now until spring brings a return of new plant and insect life, bird feeding can help reduce winter mortality and also ensure birds enter next year’s breeding season in good condition.

In fact, feeding becomes ever more valuable to birds as winter progresses, weather worsens and natural food supplies become depleted.

It may surprise some to know that it is the period around March when nature’s larder is finally empty and birds need our help the most.

My picture this week is of a male siskin, a bird of coniferous woodlands which has only formed the habit of visiting bird feeders in recent years.

Whenever a species develops this habit their numbers tend to increase.

Wood pigeon, goldfinch, tree sparrow and siskin are all examples of species which have shown population rises for the same reason.

In fact, the wee dark seeds you can see in this feeder are nyger or niger seeds, which are largely responsible for the increase in goldfinches.

Siskins and, more recently, redpolls are also very partial to niger seed.

Do be careful to keep the ground under your feeders clean. I make no apologies if I have said this before, but there is a very important reason for it.

When seed falls from feeders to the ground it becomes mixed with bird droppings, soaked by rain and infected with germs.

This is the main reason the once common greenfinch is no longer common.

Those who tend to over feed the birds are probably those who would claim to love birds the most.

It may shock those folk to realise they may be killing birds with their kindness.

Feed your garden birds by all means, but ensure they are able to clear up your offerings.

Old fouled food is more likely to kill them than not providing food at all.

Feed in moderation and clean up when necessary and you will reap rich rewards such as the sight of the bonny male siskin.