Twitter, Tweets and wild birds in your garden. Is there a connection?
We all know that a tweet is a sound coming from a bird, rather than characters originating from a digital device. Right? The majority of the younger generation wouldnt agree. Tweets are part of Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams idea for what was originally a short message service communications system. A bit like texting, but for groups. In the 12 years or so since Twitter was created, the number of active users has risen to around 336 million each month, making it one of the biggest social networks.
How Twitter can help wild birds
Twitter has borrowed a bird's vocalisation, but there are benefits for wildlife that can come out of digital tweets. its now possible to tell people across the whole world where the latest sighting of a rare species of wild bird has been spotted twittering away in the wild. And as its all in real-time, others can share in the excitement too. It's vital to follow the bird watching code, however.
A Hobby is a small falcon as well as an enjoyable pastime!
Theres no doubt that Twitter provides a key source of birding news. Enthusiasts are able to share their information and photos with like-minded others. Why bother? Because hobbies forge bonds between people and extend knowledge for literally millions of others. This has got to be good for wildlife, which needs every snippet of positive energy thats going. Its also good for their protection, within limits. The more information that true enthusiasts know about their whereabouts, the greater their care is likely to be. Although birders are always wary of egg collectors and those with dubious motives. It is illegal to take the eggs of most wild birds, (Protection of Birds Act 1954) but this doesn't stop some people from trying.
Rare birds in the UK
Did you know that one of the rarest birds in the UK is the common scoter? Theres no way you would guess, just from the name! This is a type of sea duck that is found only in North and West Scotland where they favour small lochs. There are thought to be around 52 breeding pairs.
The Slavonian grebe is another rarity that is sought-after by birders, particularly when it is wearing full breeding plumage with its distinctive, golden ear tufts. Then theres that most prized bird of prey, said to be facing extinction by persecution, the hen harrier, pictured below.
Small successes need to be acknowledged
In recent years, hen harriers have managed to raise chicks in Yorkshire. Its certainly worth tweeting about. Those who care most about birds unite to protect them, creating an informal but highly effective shield.
The Conservation Red List
Then there is the turtle dove, whose numbers have plummeted in recent years so that they are now on the brink of extinction. They feature in Christmas songs but are rarely seen in the wild.
The woodcock, the nightingale and the curlew also need protection. There are many vulnerable species too, including the much-loved Puffin. Some say its due to climate change, others fear its about chemicals and many can show that loss of habitat and lack of food are major causes of decline. Whatever the reason, you can be sure that birders will be tweeting about their latest findings, spreading the good and bad news and raising general awareness about the state of birdie health.
How can we look after our wild bird tweeters?
In our gardens, birds rely on people like you and me. There have been plenty of success stories regarding birds, its not all bad news. Goldfinches (pictured below), for example, have increased in number steadily over the last 80 years. They feed largely on seeds from the thistle family and on nyger seed that we kindly leave out for them.
The long tailed tit, coal tit and blue tit also increased considerably in number, largely because we offer suitable food for them in our gardens. House sparrows and starlings seem to have a stable population and they love visiting gardens for food.
Garden wild birds in decline. Can you help?
Sadly, the friendliest of all birds, the British robin, has been in decline during the last few years. Greenfinches and chaffinches have also seen fewer numbers.
Heres a selection of some of the best bird feed that you can leave out for your little friends:
Black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts: they are nutritious and full of energy;
Seed mix: this is generally pre-prepared to include many different grains to attract different species;
Mealworms: you might not like the idea, but the birds will love the result!Mealworms are actually larvae of beetles and they do tend to be popular with a huge range of garden visitors;
Nyger seed is great for finches. These are rich in oils and a great favourite for goldfinches, although not quite so loved by greenfinches (pictured below):
Peanuts: provided these are free from mould, make superb food for birds because of their high protein content. When they are past their best they tend to become toxic, so feed fresh peanuts only;
Fat balls made from suet and seed are great for birds. Beware of using fat that comes from roasts in the oven, however. The greasy mixture can damage the birds feathers and destroy the waterproofing, which can result in hypothermia and death;
Kitchen scraps: Many scraps are fine, including small amounts of bread. But beware of offering food that acts as a filler without offering much else. Cooked potato, grated cheese and many fruits are fine. Pastry is also OK. Avoid anything containing salt.