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Country News - 2002

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Time to fill your bird feeders
Monday 16 December 2002

IT IS time to fill those bird feeders - or, if you haven't already got one, buy one for Christmas - because many British birds had a bumper breeding season this year and there are many extra mouths to feed.

Blue Tit     
The Blue Tit, Up by 188%
A warm spring meant that there were a lot of insects to feed young chicks, one of the key factors in a good breeding year, and it allowed many species of popular garden birds to bounce back after a series of bad years.

Figures issued by the British Trust for Ornithology, many of them culled from volunteers in its Garden BirdWatch scheme, show the following:

Dawn Balmer, who collated the data on behalf of the BTO comments:"There is tremendous capacity for common birds to recover quickly after a bad year.

Species Increase
Blue Tit Up by 118%
Long-tailed Tit 71%
Blackcap 65%
Greenfinch 62%
Great Tit 62%
Chaffinch 55%
* "Blue Tits, for instance typically lay between 7 and 12 eggs. If there are plenty of caterpillars available in May, when the tits are feeding their young, then most will survive and there will be a major population increase.

"After a series of poor springs, with cold and wet weather which make it harder to find food, 2002 has provided an opportunity to bounce back."

One piece of bad news, however, is the continued decline of the common house sparrow, whose numbers have fallen so dramatically that it is now on the red list of species judged to be at long-term risk. The BTO has appointed a top ornithologist to lead the hunt to find the reasons for the sudden decline.

The trust is keen to attract new volunteers to take part in the Garden BirdWatch scheme to collect information on this species too. Participants receive a quarterly magazine about garden birds and many send in their weekly bird records. For a free enquiry pack phone 01842 750050.

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