Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

Yes or no? Feed the birds in the winter

Many people have argued that feeding birds, especially in the winter will harm them. People have argued that it disrupts the migration pattern or that birds will not go to or learn to find places that have native food. Nature is reporting an article this week that shows that feeding the birds, especially in the winter benefits them.

. . . The study is the first to show such a long-term effect of providing bird food. Previously, domestic wisdom held that nibbles such as nuts and seeds helped birds get through a lean spell” as well as giving you something to look at from your kitchen window ” but that the benefit of such snacks was probably only temporary, and would not last past the winter.

Unlike migrating species that must build up large fat reserves before heading abroad for the winter, species such as blue tits and great tits that stay in cold climes are thought to live on a more hand-to-mouth (or claw-to-beak) basis, explains Stuart Bearhop of the University of Exeter, UK, who led the study.

But Bearhop and his colleagues found that, surprisingly, the benefits stretch into the spring. Birds with ready access to peanut-stocked bird-feeders from November until early March began laying eggs roughly 2.5 days earlier than birds without access to supplemental feeding, even though their breeding season does not begin until April.

What’s more, the researchers also found that birds that had been fed had, on average, almost one extra chick that reached maturity. Bearhop and his colleagues describe their results in the journal Biology Letters 1. . . [ read more Winter bird feeding helps spring breeding ]