Home
 
 

BTO Nesting birds need help after 'hottest ever' April

 
 

This page contains 1 reader comment. Click here to view (latest Mon 16/05/11 09:54).

After the warmest April since records began, worms and other invertebrates that garden birds need to rear their chicks are buried deep underground. The British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO's) Garden BirdWatch team offers advice on how to help.

Across much of the UK, the hard-baked ground is making life difficult for birds such as thrushes and Starlings that probe into the soil for food. April 2011 saw average daily temperatures nearly 4°C higher than the long-term average, as calculated since 1659, and rainfall — especially in southern England — was well below normal levels. Under similar conditions last year, which included the driest period from January to June in 80 years, BTO data show that the breeding productivity of Song Thrush and Blackbird suffered, both down by 21%. Young of these species are now fledging and their parents are trying to nest again, so now is a period of high demands.

Blackbird
Blackbird, Westonzoyland, Somerset & Bristol (Photo: Carl Bovis)

As well as harbouring valuable foods, mud itself is an important nest material. Thrushes, for example, require plenty of mud to bind and shape their nests well. Through the year-round BTO Garden BirdWatch survey we know that Blackbirds occupy around 95% of gardens at this time of year, while Robins visit around 85%, Song Thrushes 30% and Mistle Thrushes 5%. Other species such as the darting Nuthatch and the scintillating Swallow and House Martin also appear in good numbers. All of these birds require soft mud in order to build robust nests, so it is important that people do what they can to help.

House Martin
House Martin, Morston, Norfolk (Photo: Matt Latham)

The BTO's Garden BirdWatch team recommends that householders sprinkle their lawn with water early in the morning or late in the evening, thereby avoiding the warmest part of the day when much will evaporate. Watering should be focused on well-shaded areas for the same reason, particularly those that are shaded during the morning, which will encourage dew to form that some species will drink. Importantly, sprinkling will also bring much-needed invertebrates closer to the surface. Provide a reliable source of fresh water for drinking and bathing, and ensure that bird baths and feeders are cleaned regularly. By keeping a record of birds that visit gardens through BTO Garden BirdWatch people can also help to reveal the bigger picture of how birds are doing.

Dr Tim Harrison of BTO Garden BirdWatch commented: "Fledglings of many species, including Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush, are already cropping up in gardens this spring. For them, life can be tough as they search for food in the current arid conditions. By taking a few simple steps — like sprinkling the lawn, providing fresh water and feeding invertebrates such as mealworms — people can give these youngsters a better chance of survival."

He added: "Another big way to help is by becoming a Citizen Scientist with the BTO. If you watch birds in your garden for at least a few minutes during most weeks then you can easily get involved in BTO Garden BirdWatch. A new three-week 'taster' version of the survey is helping even more people to give the survey a go and to chart the fortunes of garden birds."

BTO
To request a free BTO Garden BirdWatch taster pack, which includes a copy of the Garden BirdWatch magazine Bird Table, email gbw@bto.org or phone 01842 750050.

Top tips to help!

  • Sprinkle well-shaded areas of your lawn with water, early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Provide a regular supply of clean fresh water for drinking and bathing.
  • Feed mealworms or other invertebrates that could be provisioned to young. Small seeds such as nyjer and sunflower hearts will support many adult birds.
  • Clean feeders and bird baths regularly, and ensure that food remains fresh.
  • Rake through your compost heap for invertebrates and to provide soft nesting material.

Related articles

BTO Calling all young birders! BTO Calling all young birders!
Spurn Bird Observatory, Next Generation Birders and the British Trust for Ornithology are once again running a competition to find the Martin Garner Spurn Young Birder of The Year. read on read on
BTO Citizen scientists needed BTO Citizen scientists needed
The BTO is asking for volunteers to monitor nests as part of its House Martin Survey. read on read on
BTO Thrushes prosper in British gardens BTO Thrushes prosper in British gardens
Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes were all recorded in good numbers during BTO's Garden BirdWatch in 2016, but some species fared poorly. read on read on
BTO Help complete the most ambitious bird atlas ever produced BTO Help complete the most ambitious bird atlas ever produced
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has just launched a new web-based tool for filling British and Irish gaps on the map for the new European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2), the most ambitious continental-scale atlas of breeding birds ever produced. read on read on
BTO You never know what's in store with the Breeding Bird Survey ... BTO You never know what's in store with the Breeding Bird Survey ...
Sarah Harris outlines why it's important for you to help out with the annual Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). read on read on


The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (1)

#1
Additional suggestion from a BirdTrack user who read this article: "In order to help retain moisture in the ground, don't cut your lawns too short."
   Nick Moran, 16/05/11 09:54Report inappropriate post Report 

Back to top Back to top

Latest edition Latest edition
Search articles Search articles
All articles All articles
Popular articles Popular articles
 
   
 
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Cookie Policy | About us | Advertise | Contact us
BirdGuides, Warners Group Publications PLC, The Chocolate Factory, 5 Clarendon Road, London N22 6XJ
© 2017 BirdGuides and Warners Group Publications plc. All Rights Reserved. Company Registered in England no. 2572212 | VAT registration No. GB 638 3492 15
Sales: or tel. 0800 919391 · International Sales: +44 (0)1778 391180 · Office: or tel. 020 8826 0934
 
   

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites