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When I put out food on my window ledge for birds to feed on, they start fighting over the food and pecking at each other, and literally waste everything by spilling it off the ledge onto the ground.

How do you prevent that?

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    This is an example of an excellent answer making me change my mind on the merits of the question. I upvoted and retracted my close vote. @Chris H saw the merits of this question despite its brevity, and educated the questioner on the topic -- and me on how to read more carefully.
    – ab2
    Jan 13, 2022 at 20:14
  • @ab2 I submitted some edits to the question to enhance readability.
    – ahron
    Jan 21, 2022 at 6:43
  • It is a better question now!
    – ab2
    Jan 25, 2022 at 1:26

1 Answer 1

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They don't waste the food that falls to the ground.

Consider it from the birds' point of view: A rich source of food is a great treasure, to be fought over or snatched from. It's also probably a rather vulnerable spot to predators. Some birds will snatch food and flee, not caring how much they spill. Others will stay and squabble over it. Some species dominate others, so the smaller ones will often sneak in, grab something, and fly off, while the larger ones can defend the resource.

If you look closely, food on the ground will be eaten, often by small, rather subtle species like the dunnock and some sparrows. Some species specialise in ground feeding; others prefer to feed up high (for example most tit species), and a few happily do both such as the widespread (in Europe) chaffinch and common starling, which is agile and aggressive, but still willing to take fallen food. These last may even knock food down and land to eat it, at least when you consider that they live in flocks in the winter. Starlings and some corvid species may even do this deliberately, while some pigeon species will try to feed in spaces that are to small or awkward, and knock food down in the process. Of course on the ground predators such as cats are more of a risk.

Mammals also eat the dropped food. This may or may not be desirable depending on where you are and which mammals - supporting the local rat population may not be popular with your neighbours.

If you can site your feeders such that you can observe the ground underneath, you'll see more species, and some very interesting interactions. Note that some feeders are less prone to spilling than others; simple shallow dishes or just a pile of food are among the worst for allowing food to drop

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    Kudos for reading the question carefully and seeing its merits.
    – ab2
    Jan 13, 2022 at 20:16

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