18 March 2011

I noticed a Goldfinch on one of the dish feeders for the first time today. Obviously unadventurous, slow learners! They also feed from the ground below the niger feeder, so feeding on the ground per se not inimical to them, but they seem disinclined to forage or experiment. Thoroughly conservative in fact; they “know what they like and like what they know”. But they are pretty.

Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

3 March 2011

To the seeds and feeders in the previous trial I added a tube feeder with HEMP SEED and noted on the previous table which birds were attracted to it and which ate it.

My promised supply of other single seeds has not materialized yet [“Ring back in a week…” etc etc]. Until it does I will continue feeding as above i.e. 4 dish feeders with mixed seed, 3 tube feeders containing single grains of black sunflower, niger and hemp and 1 peanut feeder. Don’t want the birds getting peckish.

Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

1 March 2011

Trial 7 VARIATION Consumed
SE MIXED Total =
SW MIXED 10½ oz
B NIGER ½ oz


VARIATION. Mixed seed was placed in the 4 dish feeders, un-mixed Black Sunflower [at A] and Niger [at B] in the 2 tube feeders. [See revised image above.] A is to the NW and B to the SE but when filled with mixed seed birds have shown no preference for one position over the other i.e. previously they have both emptied at the same rate. Consumed is the total amount used during the course of the trial i.e. ca. 12 hours. ‘Consumed’ does not necessarily mean eaten!

During the course of this trial I had opportunity to note what birds fed on what grain and from which source as shown below. [Table modified by addition of HEMP – see under 3 March 2011]

Mix. Sun. Nig. Hemp Ground
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
House Sparrow
Collared Dove


Frequent feeder.


Occasionally seen on feeder but not seen eating.


I also noticed the following. Several species [see table above] landed on the Niger but were not seen to eat any. Chaffinches and Sparrows landed on the Niger feeder only rarely, whereas Greenfinches, and Great and Blue Tits inspected the Niger briefly before usually flying straight to the Sunflower where they fed. Greenfinches occasionally ‘sipped’ at the Niger. For Goldfinches the reverse was true. They occasionally landed on the Sunflower but invariably left without feeding and only fed on the Niger. While on the Niger Goldfinches did not ‘shovel’ as they had when the same feeders contained mixed seed. At no time were Goldfinches seen on the dish feeders [containing mixed seed]. This indicates that Goldfinches either do not recognise the dish feeders as sources of food or distrust them. In this trial the dish feeders contained the same food that they so assiduously shovelled from the tube feeders in the previous trial, and in the previous trial a dish feeder contained straight Niger seed which they did not touch while it was in the dish feeder but was the only thing they ate when in a tube feeder. Goldfinches in my garden appear to eat only Niger but no other birds seem interest. I have never seen Siskin or Redpoll here in Somerset – two other birds often cited as eating Niger.
If Goldfinches were looking for Niger in the mixed seed was in the tube feeder, their shovelling is hardly to be wondered at. The mixed seed, ‘Bestpets Premium Wild’, [NOT an endorsement’; it is as poor as all the others I have tried!] contains Niger in infinitesimally minuscule quantities. In a random 4 oz sample there was too little to weigh accurately but amounted to less than half a teaspoonful and was equivalent in weight to approximately 2 peanuts! Compared to the pure Niger seed sample I have, the Niger contained in the Bestpets mixed seed appears of very poor quality – very small and shriveled. It may be enough to satisfy the legal requirements for stating that the product contains Niger but not enough to satisfy this customer – nor the ones in my garden!

Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

28 Feb 2011

Trial 6 VARIATION Consumed*
NE HEMP 1 oz


VARIATION. In order to get a slightly better idea of how much seed might be consumed if freely available, the feeders were topped up as they became empty. Hence some of the figures for consumption exceed the 4 oz amounts used in previous trials.


nigerBlue tits and Greenfinches were seen landing on the Niger dish, then leaving without feeding. Most flew to the Peanuts, which in Trial 5 had been positioned where the Niger is in this trial. I only noticed one Greenfinch that appeared to feed briefly from the Niger – but then I had other things to do! Goldfinches continued to feed from the tube feeders and ignored all the dish feeders including that with the Niger seed. In the image at left, the Niger feeder is the one without birds on! As well as the two Goldfinches shown on the tube feeder, when the image was taken another Goldfinch was on the other tube feeder just out of shot to the right. The Greenfinch in the image is on the Sunflower feeder.

The birds could possibly have eaten more than 12 ozs of Peanuts had I been able to keep the feeder stocked all the time but I found it empty on three occasions; how long it had been empty I don’t know. Of course birds can easily make off with a greater weight of Peanuts compared to any of the other trial seeds.

To replenish the 2 tube feeders each day requires approximately 1½ lbs of seed. This does not mean birds are eating that amount, because they are not. See previous images, pages etc. But I am surprised by the continuing enthusiasm the birds show either for the mixed seed or the tube feeders. Could the high visibility of the mixed seed in the tube feeders be a stronger stimulus than the single seeds visible in the dishes? The seed in the tube feeders is visible from 360° whereas that in the dishes is only visible from above the horizontal plane of the dishes. Next trial will use mixed seed in dish feeders and single seed in the tubes. That’ll fox them!


Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

27 Feb 2011

Trial 5 Each feeder starts with 4 oz of seed Remaining
SE NIGER >3¾ oz
SW HEMP 2¾ oz


Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

26 Feb 2011

Trial 4 Each feeder starts with 4 oz of seed Remaining
SW HEMP 3½ oz


I will re-run this trial in dry weather. There was a shower early on and the Niger seed got damp, which may account for its apparent lack of appeal, before the day turned fine. I saw birds land on the Niger dish – Blue Tits and Greenfinch – so it did not go unnoticed.


Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

25 Feb 2011

Trial 3 Each feeder starts with 4 oz of seed Remaining
NW HEMP 3½ oz
NE MAIZE >3¾ oz


I conclude from Trial 3 that this shows birds express a preference for certain seed types rather than for the location or orientation of the feeder itself.

Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

24 Feb 2011

Trial 2 Each feeder starts with 4 oz of seed Remaining
SW HEMP 3¼ oz


I left the 2 tube feeders filled with ordinary mixed seed in situ for Trial 2 as shown in the image above. To my surprise, these seemed to attract as much interest as the dish feeders containing singles. Finches [‘Gold’ and ‘Green’] in particular were drawn to the tube feeders and shovelled out great quantities of seed in search of something. They either enjoy shovelling on the same principle as General Peckem [I think – or was it Major Major?; “while none of the work we do is very important, it is important that we do a great deal of it”] or they were looking for something other than peanuts, black sunflower, maize or hemp each of which was to be had more easily and in greater quantities only inches away.

Trial 3 will be an attempt to eliminate the possibility that birds’ feeding is determined by preference for the feeder location rather than its contents. Trial 2 is therefore repeated but with the positions of the preferred seed being swapped with that least favoured, and the middle two being reversed. One picture being worth…

Written on April 4th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

Because my home-made dish feeders are not very satisfactory in wet weather, these trials will, so far as possible, be conducted in dry weather. The dish feeders will be replaced in wet weather by standard tube feeders [image below] filled with commercial mixed grain to maintain the birds’ feeding habits at the trial location.

In each trial I will position the 4 dish feeders holding single seed types [‘singles’] as follows [see image below]:

  1. At the North West
  2. At the NE
  3. At the SE
  4. At the SW.

At approximately 1 hour intervals I will rotate the support clockwise to move each feeder one position to eliminate feeding  preference determined by location rather than food type.



22 Feb 2011

Trial 1 Each feeder starts with 4 oz of seed Remaining
1 MAIZE >3¾ oz
2 PEANUTS* 1½ oz
< = less than 

> = more than





* The peanuts are slightly crushed, not whole. The ‘mixed small seeds’ used in Trial 1 seemed to consist of red and yellow millet, rape and maybe others. Single small seed trials await supplies.






feeder locations

Following Trial 1 I have decided not to rotate the feeders on an hourly basis! To do so is potentially confusing both to birds and the experiment. So, in all cases, the feeders will be positioned as shown at left and tethered if need be to prevent rotation by the wind. I will do a few  separate trials at the end with preferred singles in different positions to eliminate the possibility that an apparent preference for a seed variety is not in fact a preference for a particular position. [See later notes after Trial 2]

Trial 1 was something of a teething run. The clearance gap at the bottom of the holding tubes proved inadequate to allow free flow of peanuts and sunflower seeds. I modified the feeders slightly to remedy the fault.




Written on January 17th, 2011 , Bird-seed Survey Tags:

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