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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Feeding birds in our gardens is a joy – but it may be harming weaker species | Alexander C Lees

<p>By boosting dominant species such as great tits, human-provided food can make life harder for many woodland birds</p><p>Feeding birds is hard-wired into our national psyche. The apocryphal Victorian “tuppence a bag” for seed for the Trafalgar Square pigeons has morphed into a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320721003475?dgcid=coauthor">national pastime</a>, with an estimated 17m households spending £250m a year on more than 150,000 tonnes of bird feed – enough to feed the entire breeding population of the 10 most common feeder-using bird species year-round three times over.</p><p>The habit has been enthusiastically encouraged by environmental NGOs, which recognise it as a way for people to connect with nature. This was brought into sharp relief during the pandemic, with many of us discovering the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/26/charmed-in-lockdown-garden-birds-by-denis-thorpe-in-pictures">joy of attracting birds</a> to our own gardens after losing access to wildlife and wild spaces. So we know that bird-feeding can be good for humans, but what about for birds?</p><p>Dr Alexander C Lees is senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. He co-authored the piece with Dr Jack Shutt, research associate in conservation ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University<br></p> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/aug/25/feeding-birds-garden-boost-dominant-species">Continue reading...</a>

By boosting dominant species such as great tits, human-provided food can make life harder for many woodland birds

Feeding birds is hard-wired into our national psyche. The apocryphal Victorian “tuppence a bag” for seed for the Trafalgar Square pigeons has morphed into a national pastime, with an estimated 17m households spending £250m a year on more than 150,000 tonnes of bird feed – enough to feed the entire breeding population of the 10 most common feeder-using bird species year-round three times over.

The habit has been enthusiastically encouraged by environmental NGOs, which recognise it as a way for people to connect with nature. This was brought into sharp relief during the pandemic, with many of us discovering the joy of attracting birds to our own gardens after losing access to wildlife and wild spaces. So we know that bird-feeding can be good for humans, but what about for birds?

Dr Alexander C Lees is senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University. He co-authored the piece with Dr Jack Shutt, research associate in conservation ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University

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