Bird feeding proves recession-proof

01 Feb 2012 | No. 2012-09

While people are tightening their belts, it seems that garden birds are not having to do the same, with sales of bird food expanding amidst the cold conditions.

Birds are soaring above the economic

Birds are soaring above the economic downturn. When a recent poll posed the question: “Are you cutting back on feeding the birds this winter as a result of pressure on household budgets?”, it emerged that birds bring enjoyment that people cannot live without. Two thirds of respondents to the Omnibus poll fed birds in their garden and, of these, 88% said that they would not be making any cut backs. Spending commitments of older (66+) garden bird enthusiasts were particularly robust.

The recent cold weather has also seen sales of bird food spike, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) understands. Compared with mid-January, total sales at Ernest Charles, for example, a leading mail-order bird food company, rose more than 70% over the past week. Latest figures from Gardman, one of Britain’s largest bird food suppliers, also show a sharp rise in bird food sales.

This increased spending has followed a huge influx of birds into gardens, charted through the simple, weekly observations of BTO Garden BirdWatch survey participants. Big rises in numbers of Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Wrens, Bramblings and many other species have been noted over recent days.

Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “These resilient sales figures show the deep affection that people have for garden birds. This is why, as a country, we spend hundreds of millions of pounds on bird foods and feeders every year. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, give chocolates to your loved one, sunflower hearts to your birds, and your precious sightings to BTO Garden BirdWatch.”

For a free BTO Garden BirdWatch enquiry pack including a copy of our fantastic quarterly magazine, email gbw [at], tel. 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk, Stirling and Bangor, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.
  2. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 14,500 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see
  3. Ernest Charles, established since 1844 and known predominantly for its high quality wild bird food and bird feeders, also sells a range of products to attract wildlife to gardens and an attractive variety of home and garden items, perfect for gifts or spoiling yourself. Overall, there are 1,500 lines on sale here /telephone 0800 731 6770
  4. Gardman, and, supplies 4,000 garden sundry and wild bird care products to the garden centre industry and it has an annual turnover of more than £80 million.
  5. Sales figures for Ernest Charles presented are calculated from total sales Tues–Fri inclusive in the weeks commencing the 9, 16 and 30 January.
  6. Omnibus survey: YourSayPays December Omnibus. 1,442 respondents. The question was set by Gardman

Contact Details

Dr Tim Harrison
(GBW Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
Email: tim.harrison [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: paul.stancliffe [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2012-09

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview. Office: 01842 750050

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