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Provision of supplementary food for wild birds may increase the risk of local nest predation

Hanmer, H. J., Thomas, R. L. and Fellowes, M. D. E. (2017) Provision of supplementary food for wild birds may increase the risk of local nest predation. Ibis, 159 (1). pp. 158-167. ISSN 0019-1019

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12432


In countries such as the UK, USA and Australia, approximately half of households provide supplementary food for wild birds, making this the public’s most common form of active engagement with nature. Year round supplementary feeding is currently encouraged by major conservation charities in the UK as it is thought to be of benefit to bird conservation. However, little is understood of how the provision of supplementary food affects the behaviour and ecology of target and non-target species. Given the scale of supplementary feeding, any negative effects may have important implications for conservation. Potential nest predators are abundant in urban areas and some species frequently visit supplementary feeding stations. We asked if providing supplementary food affected the likelihood of nest predation in the vicinity of the feeder, by acting as a point attractant for potential nest predators. We provided feeding stations (empty, peanut feeder, peanut feeder with guard to exclude potential nest predators) in an area of suburban parkland in the UK and monitored the predation rate experienced by eggs placed in artificial nests located at distances which replicate the size of typical suburban gardens. Nest predators (Magpies Pica pica, Grey Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis) were frequent visitors to filled feeders, and predation caused by Magpies, European Jays Garrulus glandarius and Grey Squirrels was significantly higher when nests were adjacent to filled feeders. The presence of a feeder guard did not significantly reduce nest predation. As supplementary feeding is becoming increasingly common during the breeding season in suburban habitats, we suggest that providing point attractants to nest predators at this time may have previously unconsidered consequences for the breeding success of urban birds.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:68066


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