Watch: Yle launches 'Bird table' live stream

Table feeding is important for the survival of many bird species in Finland during the winter months, according to one specialist.

Ylen lintulautalive on ikkuna saaristopihan ruokintapaikalle
Ylen lintulautalive on ikkuna saaristopihan ruokintapaikalle

While the human hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas rush has subsided, and a Christmas peace descends, a hustle and bustle of a different kind continues in yards and gardens across the country - especially if it contains a bird feeding table.

"Finns are very active feeders of birds," Chief Curator of the Finnish Museum of Natural History Aleksi Lehikoinen told Yle.

Although the exact numbers of bird feeders is difficult to gauge, an estimate can be deduced from the amount of bird food imported into Finland. The latest report from the Food Agency is from 2019.

"More than ten million kilos of sunflower seeds and more than two million kilos of nuts are imported into Finland every year for the purpose of feeding wildlife," Lehikoinen said.

In line with the human tradition at Christmas, a particularly rich and tasty buffet can also be prepared for birds at this time of year, with Lehikoinen pointing out there are notable differences between the food offered to birds in the city compared to the countryside.

"Sunflower seeds are more often offered in the cities, while oats are more common in the countryside," he said.

Therefore, in order to get a closer glimpse of our feathered friends and their often-frantic feeding, Yle Areena has begun offering a live stream — called lintulautalive or 'Bird Table Live' — of a bird feeding table located in the Finnish archipelago.

Viewers can follow the broadcast from this link or by clicking on the main image in this article. The stream began broadcasting on Christmas morning and will remain on air until the evening of St Stephen's Day.

Bird table live is the latest offering in nature-based, 'slow TV' broadcasts from Finland, which have also included live streams of Saimaa ringed seals, a highly endangered great crested newt and eight newborn labrador pups.

Many species can benefit from feeding

According to Lehikoinen, bird tables can be very beneficial, in particular for species whose natural food intake might be especially difficult at this time of year.

"It is likely that the numbers of blue and red tit, small sparrows and many foraging species would be much lower during winter without feeding. Bird table feeding contributes above all to improving survival when naturally-found food is scarce because of snow and cold temperatures," he said.

Lehikoinen said he believes that the tradition of feeding birds will continue in Finland long into the future. However, he added, there may be some regional changes in both the amount and quality of the food offered.

Strengthening people's relationship with nature

In private gardens, birds are allowed to feed freely, but in public areas the placement of a bird feeding table may be prohibited or subject to restrictions. The number of bird feeding locations has decreased over recent years, especially in urban areas.

For example, the City of Helsinki's environmental services renewed their decision on 'no-fly zones' in Helsinki just a few days ago. The decision is based on the Health Protection Act, as birds can cause health problems and their feeding tables can also attract rats.

The feeding table should always be kept clean and if sick birds start to appear, feeding should be stopped, Lehikoinen advised.

However, he further said that watching nature and feeding birds is a pleasure for him, both at work and in his free time, adding that the practice can strengthen people’s relationship with nature.

"It's a nice pastime in many ways. During these socially-distant times, I like to look at my own feeding table every now and then, and binoculars are often on my desk. The cold snap that began a couple of days ago brought some yellow crickets back to my feeding table. Even today, there were more than 20 different species of birds," Lehikoinen said.