Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Come Feed the Little Birds

Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you.

So sings 'the little old bird woman’ on the steps of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, in the enchanting film of Mary Poppins. Of course it’s Mary doing the actual singing, but she is giving voice to the old lady who sells her bags of breadcrumbs for people to feed the birds.

When I was a child it was my delight, when visiting my grandparents at Notingham’s Trent Bridge, to take such a bag of stale bread with which to tempt the swans who sailed up and down the River Trent.

In the first picture I appear to be throwing the bread ‘at’ rater than ‘to’ the poor birds. My brother, standing beside me, has a better technique; waiting for the swans to swim close he throws it at his feet.

I think these pictures were taken some time around Christmas 1957, when I was four, but I remember the ritual of feeding the swans well into my teenage years.

We would also feed the pigeons in Slab Square , in Nottingham’s City Centre.

A generation later, and my daughter generously shares the remnants of her picnic with the hungry pigeons, whilst her granddad looks on. This is the grounds of Nottingham Castle, on a day out in May 1988 with my Mum and Dad, during the school summer half term holidays .

A couple of years later and we’re back in our own home territory, visiting one of our favourite riverside pubs, The Bridge at Woodford, near Salisbury. Once again it’s stale bread that the swans are enjoying. 

Oh and burnt toast, which my son can’t resist having a a sneaky bite of, much to his sister’s disapproval.

This is me about twelve years ago, being watched by my Dad whilst I feed the ducks; this time, however, it’s not bread that I’m offering. I’d joined the RSPB by then and was buying all my wild bird food from them, including for the swans and ducks. This is a special duck and swan food which consisted of tiny dried pellets. I was better educated by then too, and knew that bread was the wrong thing to feed the ducks.

There’s a campaign by the Canal and River Trust to discourage bread being thrown to the birds. Not only does it clog up the rivers, but it can cause lasting damage to waterfowl.

In some cases they develop a condition called ‘angel wing’ which is incurable and leads to the inability to fly and to certain death.

This is Canada Goose in London’s Kelsey Park; it would seem he has been eating too much bread.

So the message is, feed the birds by all means, but preferably with the right kind of food. The garden birds too have different dietary needs of specific nuts and seeds, and it’s worth putting the relevant mix on the bird table to attract some delightful little visitors. No need for the services of the the old bird woman then.

Our Sepia Saturday prompt image this week is a group of children feeding the pigeons, whilst the grandparents look on.  It’s from the Royal Library of Denmark, via Flickr Commons, but it’s not known where and when the photo was taken, other than the sometime in the 1940s or 50s. The children have paid 10 øre for a bag of pigeon food; let’s hope it wasn't just breadcrumbs!


  1. No doubt the toddler in my own post was feeding pigeons with the wrong thing. It's recommended here that people not feed native birds at all because it doesn't do them any favours. Instead people should plant bird-friendly trees and shrubs.http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/feed-or-not-feed-0

  2. I didn't realise bread was quite so bad for birds. It's much harder to get them to chase after seeds - they all go for the biggest chunks of food.

  3. Great pics of bird feeding, and good to hear about the efforts to keep birds more healthy. Our local lake which attracts many wild ducks and geese has signs around it to not feed them as they are prone to illness then. I wonder if there is anyone designated as the goose-police to keep little kids with moms and bags of bread crumbs away!

  4. Oh funny - I referenced Mary Poppins in my scrapbook page included in my post today. I have never heard of "angel wing" but it looks pretty awful. At our lake, a number of waterside businesses sell popcorn for kids to feed the carp, the aquatic equivalent of feeding pigeons. Now I wonder if popcorn is a proper diet for fish!

  5. The Mary Poppins song "Feed the Birds" came into my mind too, and I thought I would provide a You Tube link, as it is my favourite piece in the musical. But sorry to say I had only one (not very good) photograph to go along with it, so decided to feature something else instead. You have given us a lovely collection of family memories.

  6. I hadn't heard of angel-wing either. I love that photo of your daughter on the park bench with her grandfather. Just beautiful.

  7. Oopsie! We've been feeding the ducks at Lake Tahoe with bread & crackers. We don't feed them chips because of the salt, but now it sounds like we'd better come up with something better than bread & crackers. The ducks there on the beach are so tame they'll come up to you and eat right out of your hand. I wouldn't like to see them get 'angel-wing' though.

  8. Super choices. Swans and ducks also suffer from ingesting lead fishing weights. Fisherman are rarely conscientious about reclaiming their lost tackle. Where I used to live in Virginia on a saltwater bay a new neighbor started feeding corn to the local ducks. The free food attracted so many waterfowl that every day the family was besieged in their home by immense flocks waiting for an easy meal. The family soon surrendered and shut down the duck's soup kitchen.