Robins like naked oats best, blue tits avoid millet and chaffinches aren’t fussy. These were the findings of a survey into bird-feeding preferences by wild-bird seed manufacturer Nature’s Feast, which monitored feeding stations placed in the hedges of 10 farms, and concludes that supplementary feeding can aid the survival of farmland birds. Each station contained 10 different seeds, and the company reports that the pattern of feeding disproves the theory that high oil content is the chief factor in birds’ preferences.

The tree sparrows showed a marked preference for white millet, which they sometimes swallow whole to save time and energy in cold weather, and canary seed, two of the least nutritious seeds on offer, but which are smaller and easier to handle for small-billed birds.

In contrast, the greenfinches aimed for hemp and black sunflower, two of the most nutritious seeds, as they can handle seeds longer than their bill length because they de-husk longitudinally. Blue tits and great tits also liked black sunflower, perhaps because its high-energy properties compensate for their exhausting feeding process, which involves flying off with one seed at a time.

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