I have a large bucket on the balcony where i grow greater burdock (Arctium lappa) for the birds, Both goldfinches (stillits) and greenfinches (grønnfink) eat burdock seed in winter and by growing the plants on the balcony I have close views of both species from where I’m typing this! Last year, the plants flowered and set seeds, they germinated en masse this spring, I thinned them and this was the harvest today. The largest roots and the smallest ones will be replanted in the spring. The others will be eaten in oriental stir-fries this winter.
Feeding birds in winter isn’t necessarily a good thing and at least one study has shown that birds lay lower numbers of eggs when fed well, perhaps due to an unnatural unbalanced oil-rich diet: https://blog.nature.org/science/2015/01/05/winter-bird-feeding-good-or-bad-for-birds However, there are many studies showing the opposite. But is good winter survival and artificially high populations necessarily a good thing apart from entertaining us and increasing awareness of the natural world. Then there’s the spread of disease at bird feeders as with the greenfinch (grønnfink) in the UK (populations plummeted and bird feeders no doubt contributed to the spread). That birds are discouraged from migrating and stay in the same area year round can also lead to greater exposure to disease. But what about the production of bird food? That happens often in large fields, mostly using conventional BigAg non-organic systems which directly impacts local bird populations by pesticides and habitat loss. Here in Norway, little of the bird feed is grown in-country. For these reasons, I try as far as possible to provide natural food for the birds so that they can find alternatives and I can delay putting out food as long as possible. Home grown apples are put out for the thrushes, I tidy seed heads in spring and nettle seeds loved by finches are allowed to hang all winter. Local grain can also be put out for yellowhammers (gulspurv). In the case of goldfinches (stillits), their main food is burdock (borre) and I have introduced Arctium lappa (greater burdock / storborre) to my garden for them and greenfinches (grønnfink). However, at this time of year they tend to move over to the birdfeeder. Here’s a couple of videos from the weekend of these beautiful birds that once were rare in this part of Norway, but are becoming more common each year. See other goldfinch posts here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=goldfinch
The Goldfinches (stillits) are back. They are winter visitors here and, as far as I know, it isn’t known where these birds breed, perhaps in the Baltic states /Finland, moving westwards to overwinter in our warmer weather!
These beautiful birds started appearing in my garden some 15 years ago as I grew and saved seed of vegetable burdock (borre) or Arctium lappa, their main food here in winter. At that time my garden was the best place to see them and I had several visits from bird photographers and birdwatchers to see them. It must be a bad year for burdock (there’s not much in my garden) as they’ve gone straight for the bird feeder, something that doesn’t usually happen until later in the winter.
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden