Bananas prove big hit with birds at RSPB reserve

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Just when you thought you knew what you could and couldn’t usefully feed wild birds in winter, good old Mother Nature finds a way to show that nothing’s ever simple.

Up at the RSPB’s Salthome reserve, a wetland centre on Teeside, they were left with a puzzle on their hands when a local supermarket donated a consignment of leftover fruit that included some bananas.

Now, we all know that plenty of wild and garden bird species go crazy for berries and for fruits such as apples and pears – but bananas?

Assistant warden Toby Collett said: “We were lucky to receive lots of different fruits from Tesco, but it’s the bananas that have revealed some of the birds’ hidden cravings.

“Because blackbirds and blue tits prefer fruit like apples and pears, which they would find naturally, we had no idea what to do with the bananas.”

In the end, they decided to scatter them beside the reserve’s frozen ponds and await developments. And it turned out they didn’t have long to wait.

“Before we knew it, large groups of moorhens, ducks and geese had taken a real liking to the fruits – some of them were even squabbling over the empty skins,” said Mr Collett.

The experiment was such a success that now they’re offering a free hot drink to any local resident who brings them unwanted or past-sell-by-date bananas.

The RSPB has always advised putting kitchen scraps out for garden birds, as items such as fruit, mild grated cheese, porridge oats, cooked rice and pasta or potatoes all successfully supplement seed mixes.

But now it looks like we’ll all be taking bananas, not bread, down the park when we want to go feed the ducks.

The charity’s head of wildlife enquiries, Val Osborne, said: “Although bananas aren’t one of the traditional fruits fed to birds, they probably hit the spot quickly and help birds warm up soon after eating them.

“They will certainly be of more nutritional value than bread, which is more commonly fed to geese, ducks and swans.”

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