Free Guides to Help Garden Birds

February 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

BTO’s GardenBirdwatch team have produced a guide to help bird lovers protect against predation at home.

With the impact of predators on songbird populations featuring heavily in the news, the public are keen to know what they can do to help. Many predators can be found in gardens, and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has produced free guides to advise armchair birdwatchers.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk by Meneer Zjeroen, on Flickr

It is an issue that divides garden birdwatchers. Whether it is a Sparrowhawk swooping stealthily to take a Robin, a Magpie raiding a Blackbird nest, or a moggy prowling for House Sparrows – the impact of predators on songbird numbers stirs up heated debate. The act of predation can be more obvious in gardens and householders have been seeking unbiased, scientific information about the important issues faced and practical tips on how to help their songbirds.

There is concern, for example, that smaller birds that gather at feeding stations are an easy target for predators like Sparrowhawks – but steps can be taken to help tip the balance. The BTO Garden BirdWatch team recommends positioning hanging feeders close to tall and dense vegetation, enabling smaller species to grab food and, if necessary, flit quickly into cover. Moving feeders regularly is also a top tip, since Sparrowhawks tend to follow regular flight paths through gardens.

Cats are thought to take some 55 million birds in British gardens every year, including red-listed species such as House Sparrow and Starling. Various cat deterrents can help to reduce this toll, with sonic devices being particularly effective if moved regularly to prevent cats from learning how to avoid their sensors. This and many other great hints are available from the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch team.

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “Those who have a predator visit their garden face many tricky questions. Should I keep feeding birds if I see a Sparrowhawk? How can I reduce the number of birds that are taken by my cat? These and other questions are addressed in the free guides produced by the BTO Garden BirdWatch team.”

He concluded: “With Sparrowhawk numbers having recovered in recent decades and some nine million cats – around one for every seven persons – in the UK, there is understandable concern about the impact of predators on songbird numbers. The public need impartial, scientific advice, and this is where we can help.”

To get the free guides please contact:

Garden BirdWatch, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU
email gbw@bto.org, telephone 01842 750050

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