Monday, 15 July 2013

Topic of Research (Wai Kit) -- What seeds do birds prefer to eat?

Topic Overview
What seeds do birds prefer to eat?

Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
Material Availability
Readily Available
Low ($20 - $50)
Adult supervision required for using power drill and staple gun


Are you curious about the birds that live in your neighborhood? Would you like to find out more about them: what they look like close up, what they eat, how they sing? In this project you'll build a bird feeding platform with four separate feeding areas. You'll be able to observe birds at close range, find out what birds inhabit your area, and learn about their seed-eating preferences. So get out your woodworking tools and binoculars, and get ready to see some birds.


The goal of this project is to investigate the seed-eating preferences of local birds.


Andrew Olson, Ph.D., Science Buddies


This project is based on the following 2007 California State Science fair project, a winner of the Science Buddies Clever Scientist Award:

Hypothesis and Variables
Independent Variables:
+ Type of seeds
+ Type of housing (accommodation and shelter for birds, seed tray)

Dependent Variables:
+ Number of birds
+ Type of birds

+ Location of housing
+ Time of day (when the recording of data starts)
+ Number of seeds

A larger variety of seeds would attract more birds and a larger population of them.

Research Questions
Definition: Bird food, often varieties of seeds are eaten by birds. They are the main diet of them.

What are they?
- The types of seeds vary for different birds. However, black-oil sunflower seeds are the more favoured ones. They have a high meat-to-shell ratio, are full of fat, small and easily cracked by small birds. Other kinds of bird food, similar to seeds are: peanuts, popcorn (without addition of salt,sugar etc.), dried fruit.

Are there any current research?
- Aelred D. Geis tested the attractiveness of various seeds across four different locations in the United States. According to his earlier research in Maryland,  commonly used bird food such as wheat and cracked corn were relatively unattractive to wild birds. The oil-type sunflower was more  attractive. He also suggested that it can be more economical using specific foods rather than generalised food mixtures. 

Why is it important?
- This maybe especially useful in maintaining bird populations in large areas such as wildlife reserves. The birds can have a better and healthier diet suited to their requirements. This allows population to bloom. This would be more cost-efficient when ordering bird feeds.

Equipment needed?
- Various types of seeds (sunflower seed, dried fruit, peanuts, barley )
- Wood planks (for housing)
- Drills, files, wood cutters, glues or screws
- Plates for seeds, water grit
- Camera with tripod (to take photographs and count birds)
- Table (for data compilation)
- Weighing machine

How do I carry out the experiment?
We would first construct housing of the same dimensions (at least 2). Then we prepare roughly the same amount of bird feeds and place them into the respective plates (better to have one feed per housing and not a mixture). Prepare water and grit also. Make sure there is sufficient water (may run out due to birds drinking and bathing) at all times.  At a certain time of the day, prepare the camera. Take photographs and count the number of birds at each housing. Remember to differentiate the types of birds too. Repeat this experiment for at least 1 week. After that, compile the data in a table and the housing with the most amount of birds and type will be the feed that is the most suitable for birds.


- Geis, Aelred D. 1980. Relative Attractiveness of Different Foods at Wild Bird Feeders. 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Special Scientific Report No. 233. 11 pp.

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