Feeding and feeders

Many of us provide food for birds, some throughout the year and others only in the winter months. Whether you feed the birds all year round or only in the winter the important thing is to remain consistent so don’t start and stop as birds will become reliant on food sources and, especially in the winter, they can use valuable energy trying to find other sources of food if a regular site remains empty for any length of time.

Feeding birds brings them much closer to us and can give us all hours of pleasure and it also plays an important part in helping birds through the year and for some species it is a crucial element in helping to establish and maintain populations in some areas.

Tree sparrows will use a range of feeders and foods (see the pictures in the gallery) from seed feeders to fat balls and large seed hoppers. Oil rich seeds are the best so things like millets, linseed and rape seed but they will take all kinds of seed and often a ‘finch mix’ is a good seed type to use. If you are lucky enough to have tree sparrows using your feeders you may want to experiment a little by offering ‘straight’ foods i.e. a feeder with just white millet or rape seed etc. to see if they prefer one food over another.

Don’t forget that providing water is just as vital as providing food for the birds.

It seems that some tree sparrow populations move away from their breeding areas to winter elsewhere, probably where the winter food supply is more reliable. Often relatively large flocks can be seen at coastal reserves and in lowland areas taking advantage of both the reliable food supply and probably the more favourable weather conditions.

Having said this tree sparrows have been seen feeding on feeders in gardens in the dales for a number of winters now and this gives us hope that we may be able to ‘hold’ birds in the area if we provide more feeding sites that are reliably stocked with a range of suitable seed types.

Remember that tree sparrows are only one of the species of finch and seed eating bird that we have in the Yorkshire Dales and so providing the right feeding opportunities will benefit a range of species.

As the numbers of tree sparrows in the dales appear to be low and widely spread it may be that progress is slow in attracting them to feeders but the key is to reliably feed throughout the season and year on year and in this way birds will discover the food source and be able to come to rely on it.

As with all things tree sparrow please send in your sightings (see the sightings page for details) but don’t forget that all bird records can be added to the Birdtrack website https://app.bto.org/birdtrack/main/data-home.jsp and this will help increase the knowledge of birds using the Yorkshire Dales in a way that is accessible to all.

Wharfedale in Yorkshire is a valley favoured by nature and enriched by romance. From 'Wharfedale' by Ella Pontefract & Marie Hartley

Facts at your fingertips