Urban bird numbers taking off thanks to garden feeders

Urban bird numbers taking off thanks to garden feeders

21 May 2019
More than half of British homeowners feed birds, maintaining 133 species

The increasingly appetising buffet provided for garden birds, from sunflower hearts to suet cakes, is supporting a rising number and greater diversity of species in Britain’s urban areas, according to research.

In the 1970s, half of all birds using garden feeders belonged to just two species, the sparrow and starling, but by the 2010s the number of species making up the same proportion had tripled, with goldfinches, woodpigeons and long-tailed tits soaring in number because of the food on offer.

At least half of British homeowners feed garden birds and researchers writing in Nature Communications found they support 133 bird species – more than half of the country’s species – and are reshaping urban bird populations.

While many typical garden birds such as robins, blackbirds, chaffinches and great tits have maintained a steady presence at urban feeders, others once rarely seen in gardens have been lured in by treats such as fat balls and high-energy insectivorous mixes.