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Bird feeding survey. The results

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David Gregory | 13:03 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

So back in June last year we asked for your help. Researchers at the University of Birmingham had been studying the impact of feeding wild birds and it appeared it might be doing more harm than good.

Specifically it appeared that when garden birds were fed by people they ended up laying fewer eggs and having fewer chicks. The researchers wanted to know more about the feeding of wild birds in the Midlands and they turned to you for help.

Hundreds of you rose to the challange by filling in an online survey and the researchers have now cruched the numbers and come to some conclusions. You can read a full report from researcher Chris Nichols here. [1.4MB]

Here's some of the important points from the results;

The questionnaire was launched against the backdrop of "novel and concerning findings" from researchers at the University of Birmingham who found that providing supplementary food to Blue and Great Tits in an area of woodland in north Worcestershire actually reduced the number of eggs laid and the number of offspring that hatched, compared with an area in the same woodland where no supplementary food was provided.

Whilst these findings are counter-intuitive and surprising, don't set fire to your bird feeder just yet! You are not necessarily harming the birds you feed in your garden. Conversely, the majority of studies into the impact of supplementary feeding on the breeding success of small songbirds (including many familiar garden visitors such as Robins and Blackbirds) report either positive findings or no significant impact at all.

It turns out our viewers and listeners are a pretty nice bunch too;

The enthusiasm and detail with which questionnaires were completed are testament to the pleasure brought to those in the West Midlands engaged in feeding garden birds - we hope that this reflects the national picture. However, what are the public's motives behind feeding garden birds? Sixty-four per cent of respondents stated that they feed birds to "Benefit" them in contrast to 36% who engage in feeding to attract them to their gardens. We can take from this that the people of the West Midlands have a strong conservation ethic, and are largely motivated by the prospect of helping bird populations.

But as is sometimes the case, even after all this research the scientists want to learn more. Never the less;

Unfortunately, there are few concrete facts regarding the effects of feeding on our garden birds. So please don't stop feeding the birds in your garden if you already do so.

The hundreds of you that took part in the survey will have helped the researchers learn much more about this subject. This means as the continue to study the effects of feeding birds they can use the information you supplied to make sure they are reproducing the conditions in our gardens. The eventual aim to make sure that feeding birds provides them with the maximum benefits.

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