This will take about 10 mins to read, so why not pop the kettle on and make yourself a brew before you start.
Over recent years we have really seen a difference in the uptake of bird feeding so we just wanted to delve a bit deeper to see what the causes of this could be and how we can continue to grow to get a healthier and more sustainable wild bird population.
Feeding birds has been popular as long as there have been birds in the sky. Whereas before, it was common to throw a bit of bread of for them, this has now developed into feeding nutritional seeds and mixes developed to build strength and growth. But what has caused this change in approach to bird feeding? The weather? Or is it David Attenborough and Chris Packham?
In recent years especially, we are being exposed more and more to the threats to our environment and the danger our wildlife is in, through programmes such as Planet Earth documenting the importance of having a cleaner and healthier planet for all of us including animals.
As a nation, we have developed into David Attenborough Lovers and have really focussed on what he shows us and educates us about the planet. This has resulted in quick action being taken against endangered species and has also affected the way people think about wild birds too, including the threats to them and what they have to go through to survive and how humans impact on their natural environment and food source.
This is a similar case with programmes such as Spring Watch. This focusses more on Birds and Garden Wildlife which we are likely to see more frequently compared to Planet Earth which is on a global level. However, the depth which they go into in order to capture, monitor and obtain results on wildlife populations and how simple changes can increase survival rates of young and allow animals to thrive in our gardens has really been adopted by the nation.
With the media creating a social culture of what is right and what is wrong has led to so many more people being prepared to spend money on buying highly nutritious food for wildlife and not just doing what was the ‘norm’ (aka throwing bread and left over food out).
Weather nowadays can be so unpredictable, and it seems that the UK can wake up in the artic and go to sleep in the dessert. Because of this, people are seeing the perils which wild birds have to go through and endure in order to survive and raise their young.
As you can see on the graph above, the amount of times that people search for the terms ‘Bird Food, ‘Bird Feeding’ and ‘Feeding Birds’ in the past 2 years has taken a rise. We can also see that at the end of February/Start of March 2018 there was a spike in the number of times people were Googling these terms. Any idea what this could have been? That’s Right…The dreaded ‘Beast from the East’.
Knowing that this awful weather was due to hit the UK, people were more conscious about what they could do to help wild birds fight through this period, this really reflected in both search on Google and in sales of Wild Bird Food for that period. It goes to show that people don’t just think about themselves when faced with bad weather, but they also help out our feathered friends too.
Weather can affect wild birds in different ways, especially when it's on the extreme side of the scale, however with a higher supply of food in gardens and with nest boxes to stay in, we are seeing that the survival rate is higher than it would have been if they were left to forage for themselves when the food has perished and is scarce.
Over the past 10-15 years social media and the internet has really taken a leap to places no-one thought was possible. Now we live in a generation where we can see anything and everything on the internet within a few moments. In my opinion it has changed over the past 5 or so years, from people sharing jokes and silly videos, to people using it as a place to get information. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good browse on the internet and social media to relax and step away from the real world for a bit, so I’m not saying that gone are the days where we search for cat videos on the internet. Writing that one line got me thinking, is there a decline in the phrase ‘Cat Videos’ compared to ‘Bird Food’? Strange one I know but stay with me on this. I remember a time about 3-4 years ago where all I saw was videos of cats doing silly things or videos of that nature which is wholehearted fun and nothing more. But as the graph below shows, that phase has started to fizzle out.
Back in 2015, we can see that there was a market if you like cat videos, but as factors such as media and weather has taken a stand, then we can see that search terms such as bird food have started to become more popular amongst peoples search on Google. And if we take this to an even higher extreme and compare this for the overarching term such as ‘Funny Videos’ the results are quite shocking.
In the same time period, searches for funny videos has taken a massive decline as we can see and is now at the same level as the other 2 terms. This just goes to show that viral phases really do come and go but when it comes to the real world and the environment, this is a sector which will keep growing and growing.
Quality Bird Food
With all growing trends, lots of retail companies “jump on the bandwagon” so to speak, and as a result we have Wild Bird Food being sold by lots of retail outlets including bargain stores, unfortunately it is often manufactured at a price point with no consideration to the welfare of birds and is often poor quality.
Like we have previously said before, we shouldn’t be throwing bread out for our birds, it is best adopt a quality over quantity approach. To give an example of this, I could go out and spend £50,000 on a sports car and have a whole raft of extras such satnav, parking assist, better miles to the gallon and lower carbon emissions; but could also get the same looking car without all of these features for £45,000. At the time you may think that you will go for the cheaper one as it looks the same, however, once you delve deeper into the components of the car, then you realise that by spending just that little bit more has more of a benefit to you as a driver and your pocket.
It is exactly the same with bird food. Yes 2 seeds may look the same on the outside but if the seed is old or has been stored incorrectly it will be dry, tasteless and will not have the same nutritional value, so on first glance cheaper food may look the same, but you won't get the added benefits of lots of energy and nutrition for the birds and also your enjoyment when they come back for more food in your garden.
Overall I don’t think that 1 factor can be said to be the defining factor in the rise of bird feeding with many different externalities and events contributing. All we know is that the more people are feeding wild birds quality food, the closer we are to achieve our goal of getting the nation feeding wild birds!
If you feel there are other factors which may have contributed to the increase of bird feeding, please do let us know as we are always interested to hear people’s views on this topic.
Written by Stephen Bennett.