Blue tits use garden food dispensers… but the extra meals are threatening other species


Bird feeders ‘wreck the pecking order’: Blue tits use garden food dispensers… but the extra meals are boosting breeding levels and threatening other species, scientists warn

  • Scientists analysed blue tit droppings which showed they used feeders
  • Manchester Metropolitan University team said rise in numbers spelled trouble
  • Blue tits evict other species of birds – such as willow tits – from nesting holes 

Filling up a garden feeder and watching birds flock to it is one of life’s simple pleasures. But they could be causing some species to thrive at the expense of others.

Scientists analysed blue tit droppings which showed they use feeders – with the extra food boosting breeding levels four-fold. 

But the Manchester Metropolitan University team said the rise in numbers spelled trouble for other species as blue tits (pictured) often evict others – such as willow tits – from nesting holes. 

Scientists analysed blue tit droppings which showed they use feeders – with the extra food boosting breeding levels four-fold. Pictured, a blue tit

The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. 

It appeared the blue tits were relying on the feeders as their primary food source, as popular feeder items such as peanuts were found in 49 per cent of droppings sampled.

This was much higher than their most frequent prey, moths, which was only found in 34 per cent of samples.

The study also revealed that some blue tits travelled almost a mile to visit their nearest household feeders, and the researchers predict supplementary food is available ‘to almost every blue tit in the UK’.

The Manchester Metropolitan University team said the rise in numbers spelled trouble for other species as blue tits often evict others – such as willow tits – from nesting holes. Pictured, a Great tit on a bird feeder

The Manchester Metropolitan University team said the rise in numbers spelled trouble for other species as blue tits often evict others – such as willow tits – from nesting holes. Pictured, a Great tit on a bird feeder

The study reveals that in the UK alone, the wild bird food market is estimated to be worth £241 million and supplies around 150,000 tonnes of supplementary food each year.

It adds: ‘In the UK, there is estimated to be one supplementary bird feeder per nine feeder-using birds, providing enough resources nationally to feed three times the entire breeding populations of the ten most common feeder-using species year-round if they consumed nothing else.

‘While garden wildlife feeding is actively and enthusiastically encouraged by conservation organisations…such an enormous resource addition is likely to have profound effects on both the organisms benefitting from it and their natural competitors and prey.’

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