The effects of the UK lockdown on the wild bird food market

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) has reported that, in the last four weeks, its members have seen a huge shift in bird food sales from stores to online, and through pet shops.

With garden centres and many other retailers closed, PFMA said that communities have come together to find innovative ways for operation until we can surpass this unprecedented time.

Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive at the PFMA, said: “Watching and feeding wild birds in our gardens and outdoor spaces is a rewarding and enjoyable activity, not least during these unprecedented times, as the vast majority of us spend most of our time at home.

“Providing supplementary food for wild birds is critical for their welfare as it provides essential nutrition when natural food shortages occur. Feeding wild birds is one of the most practiced forms of human-wildlife interactions and contributes to species diversity and sustaining bird populations.”

A PFMA survey of 2,000 UK households in early 2020 showed that 41% of people, who have outdoor space at home, engage in feeding wild birds. The survey also found that most people feed wild birds because they enjoy seeing them in their gardens/outdoor space and to support the local wildlife by providing supplementary food.

The most common routes to buy bird food are supermarket/grocery (38%), pet shops (23%), garden centres (21%) followed by DIY stores, online and other platforms.

The total UK wild bird food market is estimated to be worth £235 million, according to the  PFMA Bird Food Market Data Report 2019). This represented a 6% increase on 2018, which in turn was up 5% on 2017.

Ms Paley said: “Most people who feed them are aware that the birds in their garden depend on them to survive. This awareness is not just at winter when birds need supplementary feeding, but also other seasons bring their own conditions and challenges for birds.

“In spring, for example, supplementary feeding is important because it provides nutritious food for adults while they are working hard to find insects and grubs for their growing young.

“Additionally, the harvest season has not started yet and there is not much natural food left from last year. If they face a shortage of food this spring, they are likely to struggle to survive and successfully raise their young.”

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