There is no better way to enjoy the birds in your garden than to put up feeders or put out food to attract them. That way they come to you, rather than you having to seek them out. We do not overdo the feeders; we have a large peanut feeder and another with niger seeds that we keep topped up only in winter and spring. In our yard there are also plenty of opportunities for food theft by the birds from the grain put down for the ducks; did I mention that we have ducks? Watching the different birds’ behaviours around the feeders given an insight into the different roles that different species play, or what scientists call an ecological niche. Think of a niche as an occupation or a job that is done. The great tits and blue tits tend to be masters of the peanut feeder, aggressively guarding their larder and easily raiding it by using the strong pointed bills to peck at the nuts. Only the larger greenfinches seem unperturbed by the tits, ignoring them and feeding whenever they like. The greenfinch has a larger more powerful bill, with which it levers out broken nuts from the wire mesh with ease. At quieter times, the gentler chaffinch and house sparrow nip in for a nibble. Goldfinches have the niger seed feeder to their own; their only quarrel is with each other. Their long slim bill has evolved to eat small seeds, so picking out the small black seed, tweezer-like, through the narrow slits is their specialised job. Meanwhile, on the ground the red-breasted robin and its drab cousin the dunnock quietly go about their business mopping up the leftovers that fall from the feeders above. This is how nature works in our garden. All the food resources that we put out for our garden birds are used up, with different species getting their different share of the feast, and nothing is wasted. Of course, that is until the starlings arrive, those bully boys of the garden bird world; when this gang arrives, all others scarper.
Three of the tit species that I saw at the feeder today are #4 blue tit, #5 great tit and #6 coal tit. And to add to this trio is #7 the starling.