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Do different coloured feeders attract different birds?

Sent in by Pamela Mary Hughes, Ipstones, Staffordshire

Recent studies have shown that birds' response to colour is far greater than ours. Birds, like bees, have four colour receptive cones, whilst our eyes only have three. Birds are also able to see well in ultraviolet and this produces a change in colour perception that humans cannot appreciate.

So, do birds prefer certain colours? In trials carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology, 12 different coloured feeders were used with a variety of food types to investigate feeder colour preferences in birds. Their popularity was measured and recorded by the amount of food consumed from each feeder.

Summer trials that were conducted in Shropshire, showed that the blue seed feeders were the most popular, followed by dark blue, dark green, burgundy, silver and then red.

Winter trials that took place in Norfolk, used black sunflower in the feeders and here silver was the most popular, followed by blue, red and then dark green.

Further studies showed that for seed, blue feeders proved the most popular during the summer and that silver coloured feeders were popular all year round. However, this was not the case for goldfinches, as it would seem that green was their preferred colour. For peanut feeders, red coloured feeders appeared the most popular, notably with birds such as siskins. Siskins, despite being seed feeders, readily visit gardens in times of their natural food shortage and are attracted to red peanut feeders.

There are many variables to consider when looking at bird feeder usage, colour alone is never the sole reason for selection. Such variables include: the position, contents and the material used for the feeders. Also worthy of consideration, are the species present, the time of year and weather as well as the behaviour of the birds, i.e. feeding strategies.

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