Seed-eating birds are some of the most engaging garden birds here in the UK. Unfortunately due to changes in agriculture, and the changes in the way we use our land we are seeing sharp declines in birds we once took for granted.
Fortunately, garden feeders have thrown a lifeline to these birds and they are now able to prosper in more domestic settings. There are still more to be done but there are ways you can support seed-eating birds in your garden and enjoy having them around.
Most of the birds that you find on your garden feeders will be seed-eating birds, apart from a few who might choose to use the feeders in winter when the weather really does get a little tougher!
Seed-eating birds include:
The main problem with being a seed-eating bird is that most of the seeds ripen in Summer and Autumn. By the following spring, the seed is in short supply and the must find a food substitute during the winter or face a shortage.
Feeding the seed-eating birds really helps them to survive during these difficult periods and ensures that during the peak seasons they are getting into a good condition to be able to breed in Spring.
It is important to note though, our weather conditions are more changeable now than ever before. We are seeing different types of weathers and more extreme — like the beast from the east example followed by heatwaves in June. This weather means that we can no longer simply rely on the natural food to feed our birds. Feeding birds just in the Winter is a thing of the past — we should be putting food out during the summer months too.
Changes in Habitat
We have seen a serious decline in the numbers of birds, including seed-eating birds. Changes in our farming practices play a large part in this decline. Seed-eating birds in previous years would have prospered under traditional practices.
There are a few key changes that have changed the way seed-eating birds encounter the land and why they are struggling with a shortage of food:
- The use of herbicides in modern farming practices. Crops that were grown before the use of herbicides usually had many weeds that left the seed in the soil. It was these weeds that the seed-eating birds depended on. Unfortunately, our new modern farming practices efficiently eradicate these weeds leaving seed-eaters without the food they need.
- We plough fields straight after harvest. In traditional farming, ploughing took place in the Winter and birds used to feed on the split grain stubble in the fields. Now we plough straight after they are harvested in the autumn which removes any of the food sources for the birds.
- The decline in Habitats on farmed land. We have lost traditional habitats such as hay meadow. Many of these habitats were rich in all sorts of plant species. Seed-eating birds don’t need a huge variety of these plants but they do need habitats that have sorrel, dandelions and thistle — things that we now remove as ‘weeds’ from both farmland and gardens in the UK.
Your Garden can make a change
We don’t have a lot of say over farming practices, but we do have a lot of say over our own little pieces of land — our gardens. We can make changes that will help these birds and many of them are starting to come into our gardens because of our support.
It is fantastic for these birds, but also for us to share our spaces with wildlife. I often wonder why people have gardens that are completely devoid of nature.
There are quite a few things you can do in your garden to attract and support these seed-eating birds. Always try where possible to preserve some natural feeding behaviours as well as putting out food. You can add sunflowers to the garden, create bird borders and have wildflower meadows with flowers such as thistles, knapweed and teasels.
Plants that will attract seed-eating birds are not ugly or ‘weeds’ they are simply different varieties with their own beauty. Try adding some of these:
- Fat Hens
- Red Clover
Supporting the natural supplies
Traditionally we were told to feed birds in the Winter months, but recent evidence has shown that birds need food in the Spring and Summer — there can be real shortages at this time of year. Summer feeding with sunflower hearts and other seeds can help the birds to lay more eggs and raise their fledgelings.
Not all bird foods are made to actually support the nutritional needs of seed-eating birds, that’s why I decided to start garden crowd. I was tired of seeing bird food packed with filler and wheat! All our food is made with nutritional and natural needs in mind!
You can also pick up summer specific seed mixes like our Spring & Summermix which is formulated to meet the needs of the seed-eating birds in your garden.
Seed-eating birds may start out cautious in your gardens. Try adding out your mixes, with some peanuts (make sure these are in feeders during fledgeling season) and wait for them to come to you. They will start off investigating to see what is good for them. They have an instinctive wariness about their habitat changing so it may take a little time before they arrive.