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Feeding garden birds. We need your help

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David Gregory | 13:26 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

Researcher ringing a blue tit"Science is the answer" is the motto of this blog. Often that means throwing common sense out of the window. But then common sense is really just the label we apply to our personal prejudices.

So common sense tells us feeding birds during a harsh winter must be a good thing. New research from the University of Birmingham however tells us that it's a bit more complicated than that.

After three years studying blue tits and great tits in Chaddesley Woods near Bromsgrove the researchers discovered supplementary feeding of peanut cake had "multiple significant effects". Including fewer eggs which in turn lead to smaller numbers of offspring.

On top of all this the blue tits had significantly lower hatching success. According to the paper these are "novel and concerning findings".

Bird in a boxBut speaking to the researchers they are very clear you should not abandon feeding garden birds just yet. While clearly surprised by some of these findings they say we should wait as they carry out further studies. The eventual aim is to provide us with better information about what to feed our garden birds and the best time to do it.

All this isn't just about what's best for blue tits and great tits. Although our report and the research has focused on these common garden birds you will also find supplementary feeding being used to try and save endangered species. So it's vital for scientists to understand just what sort of impact it is having.

So with the aim of learning more about feeding wild birds the University of Birmingham researchers have created a simple survey. You can fill it in online or there's a version you can print out and then send in to them via the post. Ideal for a family member or friend who isn't online. We'll let you know what the results are. In the meantime to take the survey online or to print out a paper copy just click here.

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