British Birds Rule OK

homing pigeon

I love snow, but it makes me feel guilty.

I love the peace and tranquility that follows a whiteout, where everything looks clean and bright, and sounds are muffled and cushioned. But I find myself worrying about how the wildlife copes. How the birds can feed and drink, how other animals can graze or scavenge. So when I let the hens out this morning (and they took an age to emerge from the relative warmth and comfort of their henhouse), I busied myself clearing patches of ground amongst the fallen snow and scattered down bird food for the ground feeders and topped up the hanging bird table for the others. I scattered out some cheese for the starlings and blackbirds too.

Ground feeding birds that visit the Smallest Smallholding include:

  • Robins (although they’ll go to hanging bird tables and standing bird tables too)
  • Woodpigeons
  • Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Rock Doves
  • Starlings
  • Blackbirds and other thrushes such as Mistle Thushes, Redwings (who overwinter)
  • Carrion Crows and Jackdaws
  • Sparrows

Because we keep hens, we have to be careful about hygiene between wild birds and our hens. Using ground feeder trays can help to keep mess to a minimum. Sunflower hearts are also great because they’re not only one of the richest sources of energy for birds (around 600 calories per 100g), but the whole heart is eaten and you’re not left with mounds of discarded husks that can go mouldy. They are quite expensive, but there is next to no wastage and they’re enjoyed by such a wide variety of birds.

Here at the Smallest Smallholding we have the following sunflower heart-earting wild birds – some like to ground feed, some prefer the hanging tables, whilst others frequent the hanging seed feeders:

  • Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Bramblings
  • Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits
  • Robins
  • Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes and Redwings
  • Wrens
  • House Sparrows
  • Goldcrests (rare)
  • Doves and Woodpigeons
  • Carrion crows and Jackdaws (rare)
  • Pied Wagtails
  • Starlings

If you’re just starting out feeding birds (and I thoroughly recommend it), try sunflower hearts first, making sure that a clean source of water is available nearby. Obviously it’s best to have a variety of foodstuffs on offer – suet, niger (also spelt nyger) seed, peanuts (only in feeders or crushed during breeding system as chicks and young birds can choke on whole peanuts), or special mixes that include insects.

But it may take a while for any regular avian visitors to appear, so it’s not worth spending a fortune if there’s no one around to eat it. As long as you’re frequent enough with topping up your feeders, you should be dually rewarded. It’s really important to keep feeding the birds not just in winter, but throughout spring when they’re busy with their young, and in summer, especially during droughts. Fresh water and good hygiene practises are also essential to minimise disease.

Here at the Smallest Smallholding we also have a special V.I.B. (very important bird) at the moment – a racing or homing pigeon has stopped over and has been hanging around for a few days. I have yet to get close enough (but not too close, don’t want to encourage it to stay!) to see the number on its tag. I hope it’s just resting. Mind you, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if it decided to stay…but there’s no way of knowing whether the owner would just wring it’s neck or give it a cuddle if/when it returns.


  1. Hi can’t remember who i linked here from but very glad i did!

    we’re thoroughly enjoying the british birds in our garden/potential small holding too! we have all the usual suspects along with a regular barn owl (during daylight hours mostly), a little owl, jays, siskins, one sighting of a goldfinch and a great spotted woodpecker!

  2. Thanks barbara, glad you enjoy the blog!

    we hear an owl an night, but have never seen it sadly. We’ve also had a kestrel and a couple of times a sparrowhawk appear (spectacular but me worrying as the finches erupt into a panic) from the nearby woodland or moor I suspect.

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