Whatís on the menu?
Before going any further it is well to reiterate the warning published last month: if you are going to feed, the birds are going to become dependant on you, and it is then absolutely essential you continue to feed them.
Having decided what style of feeding table you want, and having further decided where to position it (see last months column for details), your next decision is what to feed?
What you feed will directly influence the birds you attract, so you are almost able to dictate the avifauna in your area through your menu! Suitable and easily supplied foods are:
A longstanding and easily available favourite. Despite dire warning by some experts not to feed breadcrumbs, I have been using them for wild birds, for many years without problems. (The reason may well be that only a small part of the crop content will be bread, and it will be mixed with other types of food. But a baby bird, especially a baby dove, that is fed with bread only may soon die of sour crop and malnutrition.) Stale but not mouldy, bread can be broken up into crumbs, dried in the oven, and stored in an airtight container for a considerable time. Doves, Sparrows, Glossy Starlings, Weavers, Bishops and many more will take them.
- Bird seed and crushed mielies
Both are readily available from pet shops and supermarkets. This should bring all sorts of seed-eaters from Sparrows, Doves and Bishops to Waxbills and Wydahs to your table. If you donít have time to replenish the seed daily, most per shops and bird farms stock very good automatic seed dispensers, which can be replenished once a week or so.
Will attract a totally different set of birds. These should include among others, Barbets, Loeries, Mousebirds, and Bulbuls. Apples bananas, oranges, pawpaws, melons, tomatoes, and many more are suitable. Overripe fruit is perfectly suitable, but NEVER offer mouldy rotten fruit. Fruit can be cut into pieces and threaded on a wire or impaled on a large, blunted nail. This will stop the first arrivals from carrying it off into the bushes.
Fresh from your butcher (not the dried garden variety) should attract a variety of insect-eaters including Shrikes, Bokmakieries, Thrushes and a huge selection of others. Freeze the bonemeal in daily portions and defrost overnight before feeding.
- Suet Cake
Melt any fat that you have available and pour it through a sieve. Now fill a clean dish with sunflower seed, shelled peanuts, mixed bird seed, raisins or whatever you have. Pour the melted fat over it, once it has cooled you have a wonderful treat that can be cut into pieces and offered to the birds.
- Peanut Butter
Spread on a pine cone or offered in a small dish, this is immensely popular once the birds get used to it.
Keep offering a new food variety for at least two weeks before you give up. Remember that wild birds are conservative in their tastes and will take a while to discover and sample the food.
As with any eating place, cleanliness is most important. Bonemeal standing in the sun may become poison.
B By Gordon M Duncan and Wings in Need
Animaltalk April 2000