Never give birds peanuts or dry bread. That advice haunted me for years until I learned that birds have brains and minds of their own. Take the peanut issue: this advice was mainly given at breeding time in case peanuts made the baby birds choke. However, I have noticed that bluetits religiously ignore peanuts, even broken ones, when hunting for food for their young. Instead the parents offer them live food and refrain from eating peanuts until their own mealtime.
Having a nesting box right in front of the kitchen window and feeding stations around the garden I am able to study the habits of our garden birds. Of particular interest are the diverse ways of eating. Most birds will wait their turn to peck at a piece of food. If No.1 bird is already eating, No.2 will keep his distance for a short while before advancing towards it. Voluntarily, No.1 will then walk or fly away. Mr and Mrs Blackbird are different again. If Mr is eating, Mrs will shoo him off (and vice versa) so that she can peck at the same piece of food... yet there is food littered around the lawn. Wouldn’t you think a piece each would be preferable? There is no punch-up, leastways not often. The punch-ups come when the squirrel tries to dominate the area. Usually it’s the magpie who confronts him although he never wins against Sammy Squirrel. One flick of the tail and the magpie scarpers.
Whenever Joe or I poke our heads out the robin calls a greeting (well, it sounds friendly) and keeps it up for the time we’re out there. Last year I was greeted daily by two baby robins who liked to dart after a piece of suet, and this year there are another two who watch and wait for me to appear with the food container. It gives me great pleasure to toss titbits and watch them scurry to gather them up. This year the babies have learned to gather several pieces at a time and I watch as they fill their beaks before flying off.
Ignoring the fact that dry bread lacks suitable nourishment, the crows and jays gather it in like there was no tomorrow. And squirrels, of course. What fascinates me is the way bigger birds take lumps of bread to the birdbath to dunk it in the water before eating it. And they credit birds with having no intelligence ... another case of birds knowing best, methinks.