Pigeon Politics

A few times a week, I put bread out on the back lawn for the birds. At one time, I mainly gave them bowls of bird seed instead, but with the cost of living crisis biting hard, paying up to £25 a month for a sack of (quality) seed has had to be postponed for now.

They like the bread well enough, and it is usually a mixture of sliced granary bread and white bread crusts. As you might expect with birds, they do have a pecking order. 🙂

First to arrive will be the large Wood Pigeons. They spend their time sitting on nearby rooftops or fences, in the hope that it will be ‘bread day’. Once the bread is flung onto the grass and I am back inside, down they come.

The blackbirds await their opportunity. Lurking under the shrubs on the left of the garden, then suddenly darting out onto the grass to grab a chunk of bread while the pigeons are occupied. They sensibly take it back to their hidey-holes, where they can eat it undisturbed.

Last to arrive are the smaller, or more timid birds. Sparrows, Wrens, Robins, Jays, and Ring-Necked Doves. They eat together peacefully, finishing up the crumbs left by any of the others.

But the big Wood Pigeons do not cooperate with each other. They apply the rule of survival of the fittest. Large battles ensue, denoted by loud flapping of wings, and the more aggressive birds actually jumping on their lesser rivals. Despite the fact that there is enough to go round, they do not desist until just the strongest bird is left, to eat his or her fill. The others have to wait, perching on the fence as the top dog (top pigeon in this case) gobbles up the easiest morsels to swallow. Only when the ‘Big man’ (or big female) had finished, do they return.

Then those lesser pigeons start the same fracas, and so on, until the weakest and most intimidated pigeon is left to share with the small birds once all the bigger birds have flown away.

I don’t think I would like to be a Wood Pigeon.

Birds don’t like cornflakes

When I moved here, and had a garden again, for the first time in twelve years, I resolved to be kind to wildlife, and to feed the birds. This took the form of flinging unwanted bread onto the lawn at first. It was well-received by the local Avian population, and quite soon, there were regular diners, waiting on the fences, and nearby rooftops, for my usual time of distribution. Some blackbirds even made their home in the hedges at the back, so as not too be too far from this bounty. Plump wood pigeons, looking like they were wearing well-filled, fancy waistcoats, would arrive in reasonable numbers, bullying each other out of the choicest crusts. Sometimes, great gangs of starlings would suddenly appear, clearing the whole lawn in a feeding frenzy, then speeding off, disappearing as quickly as they had arrived.

I soon wanted more. I wanted country birds. You can get starlings and blackbirds anywhere, I was after the chaffinch, and the tit, both blue, and great. A jay made a frequent appearance, all beautifully coloured plumage, and loud squawks. He was able to swallow large chunks of Gregg’s granary uncut at a stroke, and I had to start cutting it up smaller. Then we bought a wooden bird table. This is a hand-made affair, in stained boxwood, with a flat feeding area, and a pitched roof, presumably to keep the fodder dry. We purchased meal worms, to attract robins, and sunflower seeds, for the smaller birds I desired to see. The big pigeons managed to ease their bulk into the gap under the small roof, and polished it all off in minutes, leaving not a scrap for their smaller relatives. We then bought nesting boxes; two, with different sized entrances, suitable for small, and even tiny birds. They ignored them with contempt, as if they were tenth floor flats on the Stonebridge Park Estate; we couldn’t give them away. The next step was to up the ante, with a fancy item, grandly called a ‘Bird feeding station’, bought from Amazon. This was the Dubai of bird dining, on three levels, with built-in water feature, mesh seed trays, and the added extras of a fat ball holder, and metalwork seed dispenser. The pigeons were able to sit in the water, fouling it with their huge poos, as they scarfed down all the seeds, and other morsels placed around each level. The fat balls, getting no takers all season, rotted in their cage, like medieval prisoners on gibbets.

Then one day, I noticed something blue and yellow, fluttering in the shrub that I do not know the name of. (I actually don’t know the name of any of the bushes in our garden.) No, it was not a Swedish Flag, it was a tit, perhaps a blue, perhaps a great, I honestly can’t tell the difference. Then I saw more, flying at speed between the oak tree, and the unnamed bush. But they were not eating my lovingly prepared foodstuffs. Oh no, they were eating some sort of small insects that were crawling on the leaves nearby. Tit failure. We did have an occasional robin, but the last time he appeared, Ollie chased him off. So, we are left with the fat pigeons, strutting around like Town Councillors from a Victorian novel, and the blackbirds. I have cut down on the exotica, and though I occasionally put some bacon fat out, just in case, I am now back to bread. If they are bored with the uncut granary, it doesn’t notice; a fair sized wad of the stuff will disappear every day, no problem.

Three days ago, I found a load of uneaten cornflakes at the bottom of a family-sized box. I thought this just the thing for dietary variety, not to mention the beneficial riboflavin, and other essential vitamins. I scattered them on the lawn, now green again after the snow had melted, and retired inside to watch the feasting. Nothing, not a flake consumed, and they were Kellog’s too.

So, I have to conclude, that birds don’t like cornflakes.