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Pigeon

Pigeons are the bullies of many a back garden. They are significantly bigger than most garden birds, and they often use their size advantage to monopolise our seed feeders and hog all the food for themselves.

If you're tired of chasing pigeons away from your bird table, there are a number of steps you can take to deter them. Follow these helpful tips from the Really Wild Bird Food team...

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A much-loved garden-dweller across the globe, the songful sparrow is a welcome addition to any garden, providing a cheery sight and a wholesome ambience.

However, a decline in numbers has led to concern over the humble sparrow’s ability to survive in the UK. 

In fact, certain areas of the UK (such as Yorkshire and London) have seen the population of House Sparrows in particular drop by a staggering 70% between 1995 and 2017, according to the Breeding Bird Survey 2018. More...

The official nesting season is defined as being 1st March to 31st July inclusive, so is well underway now. You may have noticed that farmers have finished hedge cutting, as it is illegal to disturb nests beyond 1st March, and you may also have seen squabbling birds fighting for territory. They may start to gather nesting materials in a likely spot, but these might not become occupied as it's usually just for practice, or to show off to a prospective mate.

With the possibility of another cold spell, it is recommended to continue with your high-energy Winter feeding until around mid-March. The birds still need to maintain Winter energy levels, and of course will need a boost for all the nest-building and showing off! 

Once things really start heating up into Spring, it is time to change your feeding routine.

  • Fat balls can easily go soft and rancid in the heat so should be avoided. Commercially made fat products are suitable for use in the summer, but may not be as popular and so any uneaten product should be discarded after three weeks. Our RWBF High Energy Fledgling mix (available from 1st April) contains MINI suet pellets, especially to reduce the choking risk for chicks while providing them with the sustenance they need.
  • Peanuts should only ever be fed from a mesh peanut feeder so that small chunks are taken back to the nest, reducing the choking risk. Seed mixes containing peanut granules are a good option.
  • Fruit such as raisins, sultanas, soft apples and pears cut in half, or even bananas and grapes can be fed.
  • Mealworms and 'buggy' treats are good to provide in case of natural insect shortages, such as during a cold or wet spell in Spring/Summer, or a particularly dry spell where earthworms cannot be picked out of the hard ground. 
  • If a lot of food is being left in Spring/Summer then reduce the amount given. It could be that there is plenty of natural food around - great! But it's best to minimise the amount of food left in and around feeders so as not to attract vermin and disease.
  • Consider helping the natural food sources - for example some plants are great at supporting caterpillars so you could grow the plant instead of providing the food itself, and let nature run its course. It need not be complicated - holly, ivy and nettles are popular!
  • Live foods such as live mealworms and waxworms are a good choice, to supplement the birds' natural diet.

We love hearing our customers' tales of their garden birds when they phone or email to place an order.

Susan Thompson phoned recently, and we were pleased to hear that she had seen a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in her garden, one of them possibly a juvenile. She was concerned that they seemed hungry but couldn't access the peanuts in her squirrel-proof peanut feeder, however, they had been feasting heartily on a suet-filled coconut and hadn't yet discovered the multiple suet block holder on the other side of the garden.

Susan sent us this snap of the woodpecker on the coconut feeder, with apologies for the condensation on the window making the image slightly unclear. Of course, if she had opened the window or stepped outside to take a photo then the subject would have flown off instantly. Bird photography is notoriously difficult! She is hoping to have better luck in the summer when she can sit outside quietly in a corner. 

woodpecker

Susan says that both woodpeckers continue to visit daily and they have now discovered the suet block holders, although the smaller one still loves tackling the suet-filled coconut feeders when he gets a chance amongst the starlings.  Her smaller birds don't get a look-in either when the starlings and jackdaws are around, so she has moved the coconuts away from the other seed and nut feeders, into a hedge, so they can feed in peace sometimes.  As a result, the greenfinches (nicknamed 'The Green Party with a majority rule' by Susan) - who previously dominated the seed feeders and wouldn't touch the coconuts - have found them and really enjoy swinging away.

The latest development is that some blackbirds, which Susan had never before seen feeding above the ground, are now using the coconuts - probably after watching the tits, greenfinches and starlings going mad for them. The empty coconut shells have now been filled with our Tidy Garden Suet Boost which is proving very popular. Susan says that one of the blackbirds is much more adept at getting a good grip on the coconut shells than the other one, who wobbles and flutters off and needs to modify its technique somewhat.

Susan's quest for a good photo continues... she says she missed a classic shot recently of the woodpecker feeding from a coconut with a blackbird queueing on one side and a robin on the other.

What a fantastic lot of garden activity in Cambridge. Keep up the good work Susan!

Buy a Coconut Feeder >

Live mealworms and mini mealworms are a fantastic source of protein and water for garden birds. There are many of our resident garden bird species which are declining in number in the UK and the worst hit are those who rely on insects and invertebrates for food. 20 - 30 years ago farms and gardens tended to be more diverse and there were a lot more insects,invertebrates, bees, butterflies and birds than there are now. 

Oftentimes, birds nesting in gardens will lay fewer eggs and fledge fewer young than those living in natural woodland sites – this is likely due to the lack of mature, native trees. The absence of this habitat means that birds are not provided with the insects needed to feed their young, resulting in the reduction often witnessed in garden populations. However, you can help by providing some juicy mealworms of your own for the birds to feast on!

For chicks to survive, they obviously need to be fed by their parents, and it is important that they also receive a source of water. Moisture can be delivered by way of unripe seeds,but live mealworms are a fantastic source of water for youngsters. The two things most needed for rapid and healthy chick growth is a source of protein and a source of water. Of course, caterpillars and earthworms will supply these vital ingredients - but there is growing evidence to show that the the peak time for caterpillars and earthworms is now possibly earlier than the peak fledgeling explosion - so live mealworms are a great option to bridge the gap. Live meaworms comprise about 50% protein and 50% water - so a perfect compostion for garden birds!

You can feed live mealworms all year round, but the very best time to be offering them, is during the breeding season - the months of April to July, and particularly if the weather is cold, when insects stay buried in warm places and don't venture out. If you consider that during the breeding season, the activity rate of small birds can be 100 times greater than during the winter months, the energy requirements are phenomenal - which is why it is so important to feed them easily digestible food at this time of year.

It has been proven, that feeding live mealworms can have a significant positive effect on the number of live chicks reared by parents - so now is the time to give it a go!

I am often asked all sorts of question relating to feeding live mealworms by customers who are considering it ( but cautiously!) so I have put together a Q and A which will answer the most commonly asked questions. Go on - give it a go!

Q. What birds eat live mealworms?  A. Well - the insect and invertebrate eaters! robins, sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds,wrens and even our thrushes  will tuck in.

Q. What are live mealworms? A. They are the larvae of the Flour Beetle ( Tenebrio molitor to give it its posh name) a native British insect which eats flour, meal, grain and other related crops. They are vegetatian - which is important because when fresh, they don't smell!

Q. Where do your live mealworms come from? Our live mealworms are grown in the UK for us and are BRITISH BRED! There are many companies importing mealworms from the Continent. Ours are UK grown and will be fresher. They won't have travelled from Europe.

Q. If I order some - what can I expect to receive? A. Well live mealworms are delivered by Royal Mail. They will arrive in a cardboard box and within the box will be either some plastic tubs, or a white polypropylene bag with a cable tied top. Either option is available to try. The larger quantities come in white bags, but if you are new to feeding mealworms, plastic tubs can be really easy because you can just remove the lid and put them out on your bird table ( or the ground).

Please don't worry if the plastic tubs don't have air holes punched in them - the lids are made of breathable material so the mealworms will be fine! 

Q.Do the mealworms smell? No! There is no smell given off by mealworms if they are kept in the correct conditions. There will be some bran or some clean newspaper in with them when they arrive. For those that are in tubs - you need do nothing. If you have bought a larger sack of them, we would suggest transferring them into a shallow, smooth sided tray or tub.

Q. What do I feed them on? If you buy smaller amounts in tubs, they will come in bran, so there won't be any need to add anything, but if you have larger amounts, you can top up the bran, or add some cereal, and they do love carrot - roughly chopped will be easy.

Q.How do I store them?  A. It isn't necessary to store mealworms in your fridge. The best place to store them is in a cool, dark, well ventilated dry place ( ideally at a temperature of between 8-10 degrees C). If kept at this temperature they will survive for  2 - 3 weeks. If you buy larger amounts and decant them into your own containers, I would recommend that you store them so that they are at a maximal depth of 1" deep. Cat litter trays are quite good! If they are stored too deep - their waste material (poo!) will build up and their living environment will be less pleasant.

Q.How long will they last? A. Being larvae - their longevity is dependent on the conditions and temperature they are stored at. If you keep them in the fridge - they eat less, move less and poo less - so they remain clean and will last longer. If you keep them in warm conditions - they do the reverse. If you find that there is a lot of black poo appearing - the chances are it is too warm for them or they are too deep in their container.

Q. If I order them today, when will I receive them? A.  All live foods are sent by First Class Royal Mail. They may therefore take 3-5 working days and will arrive separately from the rest of your order ( which should arrive with you on next working day delivery). Orders received before 10.00am on Monday-Thursday will be dispatched on the same day. Orders received on a Friday-Sunday will be dispatched on the following Monday. We are ultra careful around Bank Holidays ( especially during the summer months). We tend not to dispatch immediately before a Bank Holiday just in case they get held up in a warm sorting office somewhere - which will speed up their metamorphosis!  So if you would like to order around a bank holiday, please order a few days earlier.

Q. I would like to receive a regular weekly order - can you do this?  A. Of course! we have many customers who request that we send out scheduled live mealworms to them- either on  a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Please just give us a call or email us with your request.

Q. What sort of feeder should I offer live mealworms in?  A. They need to be contaned in a smooth steep sided container ( otherwise you will find they wriggle up and out and will be gone in a flash!) Ideally, something with a roof/overhang to protect from the rain and drainage holes if you don't have a roof. Window feeders lend themseves to mealworms - and it is fab to get a really close up view of your robin and other small birds visiting. Caged feeders are also useful since they limit access to the bigger birds which can devour a whole pot of mealworms in an instant!