The Associations of Nutritive Seed Value on Bird Feeding Preference: A Multiple-offer, Observational Bird Feeding Experiment


  • Harjap Dhillon


In the winter, birds are resource limited and demand more energy for migration and the endurance
of harsh winter conditions. Through the use of bird feeders, humans can help to supplement a bird’s
increased requirements. This experiment intends to examine which seeds wild, wintering, west-coast bird
species prefer and the association between nutritional value of a seed and its respective consumption. I
offered sunflower, millet, hemp seed and peanuts simultaneously using identical bird feeders hung on the
same tree in western Canada. Bird seed consumption at the end of experimental trials revealed that 2.5 g
(SD= ±0.50 g) of sunflower seeds, 1.88 g (SD= ±0.40 g) of millet, 1.56 g (SD= ±0.30 g) of hemp seeds
and 0.74 g (SD= ±0.25 g) of peanuts were consumed on average. Seed intake was related to bird seed
preference and I found statistical differences in the amount of seeds consumed (Friedman Test, X2= 15,
n= 5, p= 0.0018). Seed consumption comparisons revealed that peanuts were the least preferred seed (p <
0.05), millet and hemp seed were equally preferred (p > 0.05) and sunflowers were preferred compared to
peanuts and hemp seed (p < 0.05) but equally to millet (p > 0.05). Pearson’s correlation test associating
seed preference to total energy (r= 0.11), protein (r= 0.078), lipid (r= 0.26) and carbohydrate (r= -0.22)
content were not found to be significant (p > 0.05). To assess correlations, connections were made to
migratory behavior, differences in biochemical processes required to digest nutrients, seasonal shift and
presence of harmful secondary compounds. Overall, I found sunflower seeds as being the seed of
preference due to the seeds having the highest mean of consumption and a balanced nutritional
composition; which can be used to attract and aid the most birds in the winter.