Wild bird feeding in an urban area: intensity, economics and numbers of individuals supported
Orros, M. E. and Fellowes, M. D. E. (2015) Wild bird feeding in an urban area: intensity, economics and numbers of individuals supported. Acta Ornithologica, 50 (1). pp. 43-58. ISSN 0001-6454
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To link to this item DOI: 10.3161/00016454AO2015.50.1.006
Wild bird feeding is popular in domestic gardens across the world. Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little empirical information on certain aspects of the activity and no year-round quantitative records of the amounts and nature of the different foods provided in individual gardens. We sought to characterise garden bird feeding in a large UK urban area in two ways. First, we conducted face-to-face questionnaires with a representative cross-section of residents. Just over half fed birds, the majority doing so year round and at least weekly. Second, a two-year study recorded all foodstuffs put out by households on every provisioning occasion. A median of 628 kcal/garden/day was given. Provisioning level was not significantly influenced by weather or season. Comparisons between the data sets revealed significantly less frequent feeding amongst these ‘keen’ feeders than the face-to-face questionnaire respondents, suggesting that one-off questionnaires may overestimate provisioning frequency. Assuming 100% uptake, the median provisioning level equates to sufficient supplementary resources across the UK to support 196 million individuals of a hypothetical average garden-feeding bird species (based on 10 common UK garden-feeding birds’ energy requirements). Taking the lowest provisioning level recorded (101 kcal/day) as a conservative measure, 31 million of these average individuals could theoretically be supported.