Summer Feeding Appreciated by the Birds
News from the BTO
28th May 1996
The best you can do for your garden birds is to feed during the spring and summer too. In the latest issue of Bird Table, the magazine sent to participants in the British Trust for Ornithology's Garden BirdWatch, Derek Toomer has been able to show that gardens where there was summer feeding had more birds in the following autumn (October to December). This was particularly the case with Greenfinch (twice as often recorded) but was quite marked for Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. Of the top ten garden birds, only Blackbird and Robin showed no difference and they are often in gardens only for the naturally occurring foods.
The situation with Greenfinches is reported in the latest issue of British Birds where David Harper and Caroline Eley report on their detailed research. This study in Sussex showed that the birds preferred to nest near a feeder and the nestlings hatched near a feeder were heavier, at five or six days, than those hatched further away. Males with more than one female were closer to feeding stations than monogamous ones. The food offered was used by the adults to keep themselves in good trim and the youngsters were fed natural food until they were about ten days old. David and Caroline quoted other studies that proved that supplementary food can cause the birds to be able to lay earlier, increase their clutch size and fledge more young.
These results are very important for all who use food and feeders in their gardens. Natural foods do not come on stream until well into the summer and feeding in April, May and June seems to be important. This makes sure that the adults have plenty of food for themselves and can spend their time looking for the natural foods that the chicks need. Just do not feed whole peanuts as starving chicks may choke on them - use black sunflower seeds instead.