1. Blue tits and great tits closely link their breeding with the emergence of caterpillars – great food for growing chicks! A hungry family of tits might eat up to 10,000 caterpillars before they fledge – with each adult flying at least 100km in total to collect them.
2. Every day the birds in our gardens have to find enough food to fuel them over the night – birds have high body temperatures of around 40c so to sustain this requires a lot of energy. The simple fact is if a bird finds enough food it will live, if not it will starve before dawn.
3. They may be small but they certainly aren’t silly – coal tits often lose battles of superiority over food so they hide it for later! They take sunflower seeds and peanuts for a winter store.
4. Dunnocks are a likely bird to be seen at a wife-swapping party! Despite having one main partner for life, dunnocks can also have many other mates at the same time. Though its plumage is a muted brown and grey, the dunnock has a colourful love life. Most females have more than one partner – and so do most males!
5. Robins sometimes feed the chicks of other birds – they just can’t resist a hungry chick!
6. Back in the days when milk was delivered to most homes in the UK, it was the blue tit that used to help itself before you could get the bottle off of the doorstep! It would pierce milk bottle tops to drink the cream but this stopped when semi-skimmed milk became popular (perhaps they couldn’t get the screw tops undone!)
7. It’s a dog eat dog world in the garden, you need eyes in the back of your head, especially where snails are concerned. Blackbirds are not expert snail-breakers, so they listen to song thrushes breaking snails and then set about robbing the spoils. Song thrushes have special sites for this task, known as anvils.
8. Forget your ready meals – go for a food ball! Swifts gather flying insects to feed their young making food balls, which contain between 300 and 1,000 insects each.
9. There are no winter fuel payments if you’re a wren. The only way to keep warm on cold winter nights is by sleeping with a few of your close friends – well 62 if you want to be exact! An incredible 63 wrens were once found huddled in a single nest box.
10. It’s possible that the blue for a boy, pink for a girl tradition stems from starlings. You can tell the sexes apart by the colour of the base of the bill – blue for males, pink for females!
11. Ever woken up to a really bad hair day, well consider yourself lucky – during the late summer and early autumn birds moult. Blackbirds are obviously quite embarrassed by this and take to hiding themselves away until their new feathers have grown, making many people think that the birds have disappeared!
12. Robins venture surprisingly close to us, hoping we’ll turn over soil and expose a tasty grub – they think of us like deer, wild boar and other grazing animals. However, it is only in the UK where the robin has lost its inhibitions and takes full advantage of people, its European counterparts are much more reserved.
13. If the thought of the weekly food shop fills you with dread, have a little sympathy for the tit family. The great tit spends 75 per cent of its waking hours searching for food. The blue tit is occupied 80 per cent of the time with the same activity and the coal tit 90 per cent of it. The tiny goldcrest spends all day feeding with no time to interact or rest.
14. The jay is a modern day pirate, burying thousands of treasures (in this case acorns) every season. It will stash away about five thousand acorns in all – each in different hiding places. The jay has an excellent memory and will remember all its hiding places – however often it won’t need to use all its stash and may accidentally cause new oak trees to grow. This species is thought to play an important role in the spread of oak woodlands.
15. If you just can’t get the hang of which fork for which course perhaps you should take a tip from the great tit – its beak changes shape (very slightly) over the year as food supply changes from insects to nuts and seeds – very clever!
The RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife is an exciting activity inspiring people to transform their homes and gardens into wildlife havens by following simple, free gardening advice.
‘Pair of Jays’ & ‘Starling’ by Mike Wilson
‘Blue Tit’ byDaniel Bridge