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Spy on your neighbours – for science’s sake

[Thursday 03 April 2008]

ORNITHOLOGISTS are looking for people to spy on their neighbours to provide intimate details of what blue tits and great tits across the UK are up to in the privacy of their own homes.

Dave Leech of the British Trust for Ornithology wants to know whether gardens have replaced woodlands as the best places to raise broods of young tits. Are city slickers out-competing their country cousins?

The BTO, which is working with the BBC Breathing Spaces on a joint Nest Box Challenge, is compiling the world’s biggest data base on bird behaviour. Its scientists are keen to establish if there has been a major swing from traditional countryside habitats to gardens and are asking for help from the public.

While species such as blue tit, great tit and robin are commonly referred to as ‘garden birds’, they are traditionally woodland species that have increasingly taken advantage of the green spaces in areas of human habitation.

But just how successful are these city dwellers when compared to their country cousins? As more of the British countryside is developed to meet the needs of the human population, this question is becoming increasingly important and the data collected by Nest Box Challenge will help to answer it.

Each participant in Nest Box Challenge, run by the BTO in partnership with BBC Breathing Places, is asked to record whether or not their nest box is used during the season and, where possible, the number of eggs and chicks that are produced by the birds nesting in it.

During 2007, over 12,000 nest boxes were registered for the Nest Box Challenge and already in 2008 over 1,000 more have been added to this total. For more information, see www.bto.org

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