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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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  • 1. At 10:37pm on 04 Jun 2010, Peter Rimell wrote:

    For 37 years I ran The Log Cabin at New Fallings Coppice, Earlswood.I hadfeeders attached to my bungalow window from which many breeds of birds fed,namely;blue tits,great tits,bullfinches,robins,greenfinch,nuthatch,jay,chaffinch - and pheasants,who picked up remnants which fell to the ground!The fooe was large fat suet/seed balls and sunflower seeds.On one occasion there were three great spotted woodpeckers on the suet ball and window sill

    The last three years - since retirement- I live in Tanworth-in-Arden in an upstairs flat, and have two feeders attached to the windows. The food is sunflower seed hearts and mealworms - -as they leave no mess!! I call it my 'living window'! It is a real joy. I can be two or three inches from the window, and can study the different habits of the blue tits, robins, nuthatch, black birds. The birds hover outside whilst I put out the cage of meal worms. A cage so the smaller birds can have their fair share!! Utter bliss!

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  • 2. At 09:53am on 05 Jun 2010, Mick Linehan wrote:

    I`ve only recently began to take an interest in bird-watching,so please bear with me.
    We have Blue Tits nesting in a bird box on an apple tree in our garden in Hodge Hill, they do feed from the fat balls which we put up in the garden.
    I`ve also seen Willow Tits feeding from them, also Great Tits.
    We also have a resident Robin.
    Last weekend I saw a Goldfinch for a moment land on the telephone wire.
    I have seen apart from the Magpies,Starlings and sparrows,what appears to be a small hawk, possibly a Sparrowhawk, which had caught it`s prey and had it`s wings cowled around it on the ground.
    Of late there is a small owl ( not yet seen ) hooting through the night.

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  • 3. At 11:59am on 05 Jun 2010, ray goodwin wrote:

    i have been feeding wild birds this year with bird cake from wilkinsons and have noticed that the small birds have grown in number and have many more nesting in my garden also i have noticed a wider variety including goldfinches and other finches not so common

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  • 4. At 12:14pm on 10 Jun 2010, Dave_uk3 wrote:

    We are no bird experts, but I heard a beautiful but unrecognised song from the top of the house across the road. About a finch-size and shape, light beige underneath, and sparrow-like brown on the top.
    He had a very long warble scaling down from very high all the way down to low notes with a flutter at the end. My bird book didnt help, but on my Britih Bird Sounds CD it was instantly identifiable as a Woodlark - a bird I had never heard of, seen or heard. For the West Midlands it seems to be quite rare. Any one else around this area heard one?

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  • 5. At 12:16pm on 10 Jun 2010, Dave_uk3 wrote:

    by the way, there is a Second Law, Gregory!
    'While waiting for scientists to solve problems, use your common sense!'

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  • 6. At 10:56am on 05 May 2011, U14860539 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 7. At 07:09am on 06 May 2011, U14861301 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

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