Column: Feeding the birds '“ watch as they squabble and squawk

One of the delights of having a garden is being able to feed the birds and study them through the window.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 12:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 12:33 pm

A fresh coconut half, stuffed with fat and bugs and suspended from a branch at the back of the garden soon attracts interest.

First come the sparrows. Perhaps initially just one, anxiously looking around as if convinced that having this tasty treat to itself must be a trap.

Then other sparrows join and the kerfuffle of their wings and cheeps alerts the starlings. Soon a gaggle of starlings will be noisily hogging the food. Today as I watched them I could see that many were clearly juveniles – still slightly brown with pronounced white spots. They jostle each other and stab at the coconut greedily with their long beaks.

They can strip a coconut bare in a few hours. If they decide to move on, then there is space for Great Tits, Blue Tits and occasionally a Coal Tit. The magpie also tries to get a share, but finds it hard to cling on and soon abandons the frustrating business.

Some birds clearly have the wrong type of claw for hanging onto a coconut – robins, for example, swoop in, stab at the coconut and fly off, unable to cling on like the starlings.

Whilst it can be slightly annoying to see an entire coconut stripped in one day by starlings, we should be glad of these noisy garden visitors. They are in decline in the UK – less so in Scotland than England (but still down by about 25 per cent in Scotland over the last few decades).

The reasons are unclear, but the RSPB thinks declines in invertebrates, their main food source, may be significant.

Hopefully feeding them in our gardens is helping them a little bit and they’re always entertaining to watch as they squabble and squawk, whistle and warble.