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UK Birds die as winter weather bites

Garden BirdWatch, the national all-year survey of Britain`s garden birds is starting to receive reports of dead birds at garden feeding stations.

This winter is proving to be a particularly difficult one for many of our songbirds and the berry crop, so important to many birds, is nearly depleted. As a consequence, observers participating in the British Trust for Ornithology`s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch project are reporting tremendous activity at feeding stations. Alongside the berry-eating thrushes, there are seed-eating finches, including Bramblings (winter visitors related to the more familiar Chaffinch) and Siskins.

Both the shortage of wild foods, and the increased numbers of birds arriving, mean that the food provided by garden birdwatchers at bird tables and in hanging feeders will be particularly important this winter. Seed mixes, black sunflower seed and peanuts can all be provided and will help seed-and grain-eating species, while sultanas, finely grated cheese, peanut cake and windfall apples will help fruit-and insect-eating species like wintering Blackcaps, Robins and thrushes.Graham Appleton, who has been manning the Garden BirdWatch phones over the New Year period, reports: Many Garden Birdwatchers are reporting heavy use of feeding stations and we have started to receive reports of dead birds being found in gardens. One lady has just reported eight dead Chaffinches in Aberdeen. Usually this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many birds will probably just die overnight whilst roosting in bushes. On a long, cold winter`s night small birds can lose 15% of their body weight, as they burn up fat just to stay alive. Rain, high winds and low temperatures make the situation critical.

Activity at bird feeders in the early morning and late afternoon. This is when it is most important to make sure that there is a good supply of food. If you have run out of monkey nuts and special bird food, then finches, Blackbird, Robins and other birds will appreciate porridge oats, grated cheese, dampened bread, suet or dried fruit (preferably soaked). Gardens attract birds from parks, woodland and farmland at this time of year - so any help you give will have wider benefits.Another way to support garden birds is to join the BTO`s Garden BirdWatch scheme, which supports research into the use birds make of gardens throughout the year. Participants receive four magazines a year and most fill in weekly record forms of the birds they see in their gardens. Membership costs ?12 per year (cheques payable to BTO) and new joiners receive the excellent new 128 page Garden BirdWatch Book. For an enquiry pack or to join, phone 01842 750050 or write to GBW 2004, BTO, FREEPOST, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2BR.

The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run continually throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. For more information: http://www.bto.org/gbw/ Some 16,300 people take part in Garden BirdWatch nationwide and record the birds using their gardens from week to week. Garden birdwatchers can discover which birds are likely to be found in their gardens by visiting www.postcodebirds.bto.org and entering their postcode. A free information pack on Garden BirdWatch is available from GBW 2004, BTO, FREEPOST, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2BR. The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is funded by participants` contributions and supported by CJ WildBird Foods Ltd and is the largest year round survey of garden birds anywhere in the world.

CONTACT: Graham Appleton (Press Officer) 01842-750050 (office) 0797-4668503 (mobile) graham.appleton@bto.org
BTO Digital Image Library images@bto.org
Mike Toms (Garden BirdWatch Organiser) 01842-750050 (office) 07952-026181 (mobile) mike.toms@bto.org

4th July 2014