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Immigrants put a strain on scant resources

BTO Garden BirdWatchers highlight difficulties

Immigrants put a strain on scant resources
BTO Garden BirdWatchers highlight difficultiesThis winter is proving to be a particularly difficult one for many of our songbirds, and ornithologists are concerned that further cold weather could make things even harder. The failure of many tree seed crops last autumn, coupled with a general lack of wild fruits, has greatly reduced the winter food available for many of our familiar bird species. This has been compounded by the arrival of birds pushed here by cold weather further north and east. With relatively little food available in the wider countryside, many birds are turning to the food put out in gardens across the country.This winter is proving to be a difficult one for many of our familiar garden birds, largely a consequence of reduced food availability and increased numbers of birds wintering here. Information gathered through the BTO`s two garden bird surveys (Garden BirdWatch and the Garden Bird Feeding Survey) has highlighted these problems and the BTO has responded by putting together a fact sheet to provide advice on what people can do to help the birds this winter.During winter, many birds depend upon the fruits and seeds produced the previous autumn. Last autumn`s fruit and seed production was poor leaving birds with little option but to feed on less-suitable fruits that would normally not be touched until very late in the winter. As a consequence, observers participating in the BTO Garden BirdWatch and Garden Bird Feeding Survey were reporting birds moving into gardens and feeding on Cotoneaster, Pyracantha and Ivy berries in the weeks leading up to Christmas (normally they would not feed on this until later in the winter). In addition to seeing birds arriving earlier, they were also appearing in greater numbers and taking more of the berries than they would normally take. It was also during this period that cold weather to the north and east of Britain & Ireland pushed in increasing numbers of winter thrushes (Blackbirds, Fieldfares, Mistle Thrushes and Redwings) and seed-eating finches (Chaffinch, Brambling and Siskin). These additional winter visitors have put an extra strain on our normal wintering populations.Putting out suitable food for garden birds is particularly important this winter, given the increased number of birds and the shortage of `wild` foods. Apples attract and support the winter thrushes and provide many people with the opportunity to see some of the less-familiar species like the Fieldfare and Redwing, while seed-mixes and hanging peanut feeders can attract birds like the Brambling and Siskin. It is important that people should provide the correct foods and in the correct manner to make sure that the birds benefit from feeding. To provide guidance on this, a fact sheet is being made available for those people interested in helping their garden birds this winter. This sheet is available from the Garden BirdWatch Unit at: GBW FOODSHEET, BTO, FREEPOST, IP24 2BR.

4th July 2014