05/04/2012
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Arctic blast threatens Easter eggs

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The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is reminding the public to keep feeders topped up as the weather turns colder. Warm weather over recent weeks has prompted a flurry of nesting activity in gardens, with eggs being laid and incubated and even chicks being reared. Breeding so early in the year, however, runs the risk that cold weather can suddenly strike — as is happening now.

An Arctic blast has seen 18cm of snow fall overnight in parts of Scotland, and the cold, wet and windy weather is drifting southwards. The BTO is advising that, to help birds at this sensitive time, garden feeding stations are topped up and has issued a free feeding guide. Producing eggs puts a big demand on female birds: Blue Tits, for example, often lay clutches that exceed their own bodyweight! During incubation, birds face a trade-off between feeding and warming their eggs. Too much time off the nest might cause eggs to chill and die, whereas too much time spent incubating could lead to starvation of the adult bird. The risk of both of these scenarios has increased with the incoming cold weather. Research shows that protein-rich food supplements, such as peanuts, sunflower hearts and mealworms, are likely to be most effective in giving laying females a timely boost.

Blue Tit
Blue Tit, Chamber's Farm Wood NR, Lincolnshire (Photo: Matt Latham)

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Dr Tim Harrison from BTO Garden BirdWatch commented: "The cold, wet and windy weather that is sweeping across the country represents a real problem to nesting birds. Falling temperatures elevate the energetic demands on females, at exactly the time that they are producing and incubating their eggs. Well-stocked feeding stations together with plenty of fresh water will enable garden birds to grab an easy meal during this critical period. More top tips can be found in the free BTO guide."

For an electronic copy of the free BTO Feeding Guide, please email gbw@bto.org or telephone 01842–750050.

Written by: BTO