The reason that this weeks Mistle Thrush has had so much seed to feed on, is because of the Starlings.
I know that according to last years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch suggested that Starlings are among the garden birds most in decline, but there’s never been any shortage of them in our Yateley garden. Numbers regularly reach double figures actually in the garden, and there are many dozens around our estate, often lined up on the television aerials.
They are far from being dull brown birds, with plumage that close up is not only startlingly marked, but also an amazing combination of iridescent green and purples. Yes, they really could be described as beautiful.
But, they squabble atrociously and the noise can totally dominate the garden soundscape. Especially when there’s food on offer. We can refill our birdseed feeder and an hour later these greedy guzzlers have totally dominated the feeder, chucking the majority of the seed on the ground beneath. Some of the Starlings also feed beneath, but here the main beneficiaries are the Chaffinches, Wood Pidgeons, and Collared Doves.
What it does mean is that the Chaffinches who actually quite like to use the feeder too, only get a look in towards the end of the shift, ditto the Blue Tits who won’t stand up to the Starlings, and the Robin who has mastered the perch but rarely gets to feed there.
We do have other feeders to suit various tastes, so the most of our garden bird life gets something, but the grass is being utterly ruined and I’m concerned that the dropped food might contribute to the prevalence of Fringilla papillomavirus (warty legs) that we have in our Chaffinches – could the mites that cause it be transmitted through the mess of waste food?
With this weeks snow melted, and the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over, it is my intention to try and sweep up as much of the waste the Starlings have created as I can, but I know it’s going to build up again very quickly. So what I’m wondering is if there is some design of bird feeder that will create less waste, or discourage the Starlings, who are perfectly capable of feeding on the fat balls or table feeders we have on offer?!
It’s not that I want to get rid of the Starlings completely, but just find a healthy balance in the way we feed the birds who frequent our garden.