Let's Talk About the Birds and Bees

An early morning bird walk at Camley Street Natural Park with London Wildlife Trust's
Helen Burton. It's hard to believe this is a stone's throw from St Pancras station. 

Last year I received an intriguing invitation to Camley Street Natural Park for the launch of Birds and Bees, an "ethical bird feed company". My initial thought was "hmmm, all bird feed is ethical, right?"

If ethical means providing the right kind of food to ensure our garden birds survive the winter, then perhaps all suppliers fit this term. However, there are a few companies out there who are prepared to take things further. Birds and Bees is one of those.

The key difference is the company is working with wildlife friendly farmers to source the bird feed's cereals component from them. This means the farmers have a guaranteed buyer, which in turn encourages them to continue to farm in this way. As the grants paid to wildlife friendly farmers via the recently reformed Common Agricultural Policy are lower than what was lobbied for, this may help to make up the shortfall.

This isn't an overnight idea. Rob Allan has been wildlife friendly farm manager for over 10 years and was named Countryside Farmer of the Year in 2012. He manages the family farm of Birds and Bees's founder Marcus Waley-Cohen, so it was a natural step to combine their business and farming skills to form the new company. Habitat creation is also part of their offering, with a square foot of  wildlife meadow planted for each new customer.

On returning from London, I soon found this isn't the only option of this kind available. Honeyfield's supply Conservation Grade* bird food and Vine House Farm is another wildlife friendly farm-based supplier, who also make a donation (up to 5%) to The Wildlife Trusts. There are probably others too.

With many of us topping up our bird feeders in readiness for the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, it's time to consider whether we can do more for Britain's wildlife via our chosen brand of bird food.

* = Conservation Grade is a farming scheme which encourages farmers to manage their land for nature in return for a premium price for their crops.


  1. I had no idea these companies existed, they sound great. Bird food is such a massive industry these days, it's good to know that some firms aren't just out to make a maximum profit, but have ethical considerations too.


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