Seed Choice and Optimal Foraging: Investigations on Bird Feeding Preferences in Cariboo, BC


  • Rachel Loif
  • Olivia Baptiste
  • Mila (Yun Hsuan) Tung


The diverse family of Aves, or commonly known as birds, have been observed to make conscious
food decisions. Within British Columbia, many birds commonly feed on bird feeders that consist
of an array of different seeds of varying nutritional content. This study investigated bird
preference over four different seed types as modelled by the abundance of birds at the control
(black oil sunflower seeds) and each treatment group (nyjer, millet, and safflower seeds) in an
observational study in Quesnel, BC. The researchers hypothesized that birds would prefer seeds
of higher protein content and therefore, would observe the greatest average abundance of birds at
the safflower treatment group. A statistical analysis was conducted by a one-way ANOVA and
determined p = 0.55 for Trial 1 and p = 0.010 for Trial 2. The results of this study were
significant in Trial 2 where after an additional Tukey-Kramer test, a distinct preference for black
oil sunflower seeds was determined. This study concluded that bird preference for black oil
sunflower seeds was most likely an outcome of seed familiarity rather than the occurrence of
food availability or protein content.