Michael Viney, writing in last Saturdays Irish Times (25th February) produced the evidence that is widely believed: winter feeding of birds has ‘the potential to alter population dynamics’, citing a study of supplementary feeding in woodlands (Stuart Bearhop et.al)
It's mainly good news: woodland birds such as Great Tits that winter in gardens or woodland that have supplementary feeding, enter the spring nesting season stronger and ready to raise an early or bigger brood than birds that were not provided with winter food. However on return to the their ‘natural’ woodland habitat in spring, garden based Great Tits will have to compete with those birds that remained in woodland over winter and those birds will have first choice on the best nesting sites.
The dynamics are such that a woodland will provide many more nesting opportunities and an abundance of insect food for young birds in summer, than gardens which are generally poorer for natural prey, but in turn top the winter feeding charts, largely due to our efforts.
Quite apart from the ecological arguments, and balance, to many the importance of feeding garden birds is the strong connection with nature, one which will hopefully benefit all bird populations in the future.
|Six juveniles learn the ropes from an adult Great Tit (July 09)|