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Christmas buffet at the bird feeder attracts different species


At Christmas, many people put a sheaf of oats in the garden for small birds to have something tasty to munch on. It can also feel good to help the birds with their diet during the frozen and cold winter months.

Sheaf of oats
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Setting out a sheaf of oats can be a beloved Christmas tradition. But those who want to see many species may have to offer the bird guests a bit more of a Christmas buffet.

”The yellowhammer is basically the only bird that likes sheaf of oats. And for them to appear at feeding time, there should also be pasture or agricultural land nearby”, says Donald Blomqvist, animal ecologist and guest lecturer at University of Gothenburg.

Feed with sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet

So if you want to see different bird species outside the kitchen window, you need to supplement the food selection with, for example, sunflower seeds and peanuts, preferably in combination with suet.

”With that food, you can attract a lot of species to a feeding in the Gothenburg area. Such as great tit, blue tit, common wood pidgeon, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, robin, blackbird, fieldfare, tree sparrow, house sparrow, greenfinch, chaffinch, magpie, and western jackdaw.”

Roughly the same species can appear some ways up in Svealand, although for example robins and chaffinch are more rare further north.

Those that are lucky can also be visited by bramblings, Bohemian waxwing, common siskin, and common redpoll. These appear more irregularly and vary in number from year to year. If there are wooded areas nearby, Eurasian jays, common bullfinches, coal tits, and crested tits may appear.

”Sometimes you will have fancy guests in the shape of long-tailed tit, which loves suet, goldfinch, or hawfinch.”

And thrushes and Bohemian waxwings are happy to eat apples and pears if they are on offer.

Do NOT serve avocado or chocolate

If you haven’t bought special bird food, you can take stock of your fridge and pantry instead.

”Fruit is often appreciated by birds, as is bread, fatty pork, and mild cheese, but keep in mind that the food should not be too salty. And it’s important to remember that chocolate and avocado, which us humans appreciate, are actually toxic to birds.”

But hand on heart, do small birds really need our help to survive the winter?
”Feeding increases the chance of survival for individual birds, but the research is unclear on whether it has any effect on local bird populations. There are studies that show a positive effect on stocks, but there are also studies that have found no effect.”

There are also potentially negative effects of feeding birds during winter.

”It’s important to keep the bird feeders and their surroundings clean to minimise the risk of spreading disease. If the feeding improves the survival rate in winter, it can also lead to increased competition for nesting sites during the following breeding season between for example tits, which benefit from the feeding, and migratory birds such as Old World flycatchers”, says Donald Blomqvist.

By: Ulrika Lundin & Olof Lönnehed