Birds are fascinating creatures, with many a story, painting and poem based around their ability to defy gravity. As a nation we’re a bit obsessed with birds, spending around £200-£300 million each year on bird feeding products. And it’s easy to see why; there are over 620 bird species in the UK, with 250 species regularly recorded, and another 300 that occur with varying degrees of rarity, meaning that we have plenty of variety and no reason to get bored!
If you’d like to see how you can attract a wide range of birds to your garden, scroll down to discover an innovative product from Nutpecker which will do all the work for you! Otherwise, keep reading for three unusual stories about birds!
Cat and magpie become unlikely BFFs
Internet dwellers seem to love when animals make best friends – even more so when they’re an unlikely pair, like a cat and a magpie.
The magpie, aptly named Swoop, was rescued from a roadside by Matt Owens in New Zealand, who already had a cat named Mowgli. Owens said that he thought Mowgli knew on the first day that Swoop was family.
Now, the cat and bird are often seen together, sunbathing on Owens’ deck or chilling on the couch. However, he has also explained that he likes to maintain the ‘wild side’ of the magpie, allowing him to venture where he likes and avoiding keeping him in a cage.
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You can keep up with the pair’s antics on Instagram @swoopandmowgli.
Pheasant fends off squirrel on bird feeder
Pheasants don’t seem like the most fearsome of birds, but in this particular case, a pheasant was not going to back down to a squirrel in its quest for food!
69-year-old Scott Chappell set up a bird feeder in his garden when he was worried that he would be bored whilst on bedrest after a kidney transplant. ‘Bored’ he was not! Dorset-based Chappell photographed an interaction between a pheasant and grey squirrel, who appeared to be staring each other down in competition for the treats in the bird feeder.
Due to its size, the pheasant won the staring contest, with the squirrel scurrying away in defeat, and leaving Chappell thoroughly entertained.
Feral parakeets unleashed in Great Britain
Did you know that you can find parakeets in the UK? The rose-ringed parakeet can be found hanging around St James’ Park and other parts of London (they’re sometimes known as ‘Kingston’ or ‘Twickenham’ parakeets) but can be found as far north as Glasgow in Scotland.
How the parakeets got to the UK for certain is unknown, but there are several popular and romanticised theories:
- parakeets escaped from the branch of Ealing Studios used for the filming of The African Queen — Isleworth Studios — in 1951
- parakeets escaped from damaged aviaries during the Great Storm of 1987, which caused hurricane-force winds in England, France and the Channel Islands, unleashing damage on forests, parks, roads and railways
- a pair were released by Jimi Hendrix in Carnaby Street, London, in the 1960s (his name was cleared of this accusation in December 2019)
- a number of birds reportedly escaped from a pet shop in Sunbury-on-Thames in 1970
Feral parakeets have actually been sighted in the UK since the 19th century, with the earliest recorded sighting being in Norwich in 1855. Until the 1980s and 90s, sightings were mostly limited to the east and southeast of England, including Dunwich in Suffolk and Brixton in London. Today, however, they can be found across Britain, with the RSPB estimating a whopping 8,600 breeding pairs around the island.
Unfortunately, parakeets are a threat to native birds, due to their ‘noisy neighbour’ tendencies. They’re not aggressive, but they are loud and will deter smaller birds from nesting because of this. However, they are a source of prey for larger birds such as perregrine falcons and sparrowhawks, who have also seen a population increase in urban areas.
While these stories may be interesting to read, the fact is that the UK bird population is in a delicate balance, and there are many birds who could use our help.
Dr Mark Eaton, a Principal Conservation Scientist at the RSPB, has worked on the society’s ‘Birds of Conservation Concern’ programme for many years and in his time in conservation he’s seen some huge changes. He says, “Three species have disappeared as breeding species in UK. Wrynecks were once very widespread, breeding in 54 UK counties in the 19th century. If you look in the RSPB magazine back in 1908 we were selling nest boxes suitable for wrynecks to be put in gardens, but now they’re gone.”
The RSPB’s ‘red list’ shows which UK bird species are globally threatened, in serious decline or have experienced serious contraction of their UK bredding range. This list includes house sparrows, starlings, song thrushes, turtle doves and many more birds that some of our older population may remember seeing in abundance, while some of our younger population may have only read about or heard about in songs and nursery rhymes.
There are, however, ways that we can help to keep our bird populations thriving, and it all starts with our back gardens. Creating a pond, planting pollen rich flowers and shrubs with berries, and putting up bird houses can encourage birds into our gardens and provide them with food and shelter.
Grumpy Gardener Nutpecker Wooden Four Jar Feeder
An easy way to encourage birds to your garden is by putting up a bird feeder. However, some feeders allow a lot of food to scatter onto the floor, encouraging rats and spreading disease, as well as spreading seeds causing germination on your lovely lawn.
Grumpy Gardener’s Nutpecker Wooden Four Jar Feeder uses peanut butter bird food, which is less likely to fall on the floor.
This innovative idea came from necessity, when owner of GreanBase, Joe Smith, and his family, moved into a house on the condition that they continue feeding the birds in the garden. Unfortunately, because the owner had so many feeders, there was also a significant rat problem, which had also spread into the neighbours’ gardens.
The feeders unfortunately had to be binned to alleviate the rat problem, but Joe felt guilty that the birds no longer had any food. That’s when he discovered that peanut butter bird food was much easier to maintain in the bird feeders, as it caused much less mess. Now, their garden thrives with the right kind of wildlife.
GreanBase brought this product to QVC to share with anyone who loves birds but also wants to keep their garden neat, tidy and hygienic. The wooden feeder is easy to hang, and houses four jars of peanut butter bird food.
Buy it now.
See it in action below.
Enter the competition
To celebrate the launch of this product, Joe and his team are giving away two sets of their Bigger Digger and Telescopic Shears, worth £40! You can enter the competition, which ends at midnight on 9th January 2020, by clicking here, or on the Facebook post below.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.