Author: SongBirdSOS

About SongBirdSOS

SongBird Survival (SBS) is an independent UK environmental bird charity that funds research into the alarming decline in Britain’s much cherished songbirds. Visit our website for more details: www.songbird-survival.org.uk

Woodland birds threatened by high deer numbers

New research from a team at the University of Nottingham has found that high populations of deer in UK woodlands are having a negative impact on woodland birds.

Dr Markus Eichhorn studied the factors behind the decline in species such as nightingale, marsh tit, willow tit and lesser-spotted woodpecker.

Breeding populations of these birds have suffered severe declines over the last 25 years, whilst the number of deer has doubled. The absence of large predators, such as wolf, lynx and bear, and reduction in hunting, are some of the reasons for deer population expansion.

Although deer do play a part in the health of woodland ecosystems, over-browsing can also have a negative effect. The researchers used laser technology to build 3D maps of woodlands. Comparing 40 woodland areas in England, the team found in areas of dense deer populations there was 68% less foliage near the ground compared with areas with fewer deer.

Dr Eichhorn suggests that if we want to encourage more woodland birds, then we need to take action to restore the woodland structures that they require. Replacing farmed venison with wild meat is one way that deer populations could be controlled.

This research was published in the Journal of Applied EcologyMore about this fascinating paper can be seen here.

Citation: Eichhorn, M. P., Ryding, J., Smith, M. J., Gill, R. M. A., Siriwardena, G. M. and Fuller, R. J. (2017), Effects of deer on woodland structure revealed through terrestrial laser scanning. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12902

Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Great article in the Guardian about the Swedish art of gökotta. With International Dawn Chorus Day next month, there’s plenty to get up early for at this time of year!

Swedes call it ‘early cuckoo morning’ – the act of getting up just to enjoy the first birdsong.

Read more here: Source – Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Birds hit by cars have smaller brains

New research has uncovered an interesting finding about the consequences of birds’ learnt behaviour in relation to traffic.

When driving along a fast road, you may have seen some species of bird happily wandering the hard-shoulder, apparently oblivious to the traffic zooming past them. Some species, such as magpies, seem especially expert at hopping out of the way to avoid on-coming cars.

Previous studies have actually shown that birds are able to adapt to the direction of traffic and lane use, and this apparently results in reduced risks of fatal traffic accidents.

A new study by Anders Pape Møller and Johannes Erritzøe analysed the link between birds killed by traffic and their relative brain mass. Looking at 3521 birds from 251 species that were brought to a taxidermist, scientists found that birds that were killed in traffic had relatively smaller brains, while there was no similar difference for liver mass, heart mass or lung mass.

These findings suggest that birds actually learn the behaviour of car drivers, and that they use their brains to adjust behaviour to try and avoid mortality caused by rapidly and predictably moving objects. 

More about this fascinating topic can be read in the full research article here.

 

Big Garden Birdwatch – the results are in

At the end of January every year, citizen scientists across the UK take part in the the Big Garden Birdwatch.

Almost half a million people participated in this year’s event, spending an hour in their garden or local park recording the birds that they saw. All the data was submitted to the RSPB, and after some serious number crunching, the results are now out.

The top 10 birds this year are:

1. House sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blackbird
4. Bluetit
5. Woodpigeon
6. Goldfinch
7. Robin
8. Great tit
9. Chaffinch
10. Long tailed tit

Alongside these, high numbers of migratory birds such as waxwings and fieldfares were also reported. Weather conditions in Scandinavia resulted in the berry crop failing this year, which is thought to have caused these species to flock to the UK in search of food.

But the top 10 list above doesn’t tell the whole story; although starlings were the second most commonly reported bird this year, starling populations have actually decreased by a worrying 79% since 1979.

Both chaffinch and greenfinch populations are also down by well over 50% since the 1970s. Tits haven’t fared so well either, with less blue tits, great tits and coal tits recorded than last year.

Citizen science projects such as this give a valuable insight into the health of our wildlife in the UK. They show that our much loved songbirds are in trouble.

SongBird Survival is an independent bird charity working to understand the reasons behind songbird declines in the UK. We raise funds to commission targeted research, and aim to identify solutions to restore songbird numbers, saving the dawn chorus for tomorrow.

To learn more about our work and how you can help, visit our website.

Children who play outside more likely to protect nature as adults — ScienceDaily

           

 

Protecting the environment can be as easy as telling your kids to go outdoors and play, according to a new study. Research by Catherine Broom, assist. prof. in the Faculty of Education at UBC Okanagan, shows that 87 per cent of study respondents who played outside as children expressed a continued love of nature as young adults.

Source: Children who play outside more likely to protect nature as adults — ScienceDaily

Gardening for wildlife

Spring has well and truly sprung, and the keen gardeners among you will have been beavering away in your garden for weeks already. If you’re less keen, or completely new to gardening, here are some seasonal tips to get you started with gardening for wildlife.

Most birds rely on a variety of foods such as insects, slugs, snails, worms, pollen, fruit, buds and seeds. Having a range of these available should attract a variety of birds to your garden. Creating diverse habitats and food sources will also attract a wide range of insects and small mammals.

Turfed or paved, big or small, whatever garden you have, there are easy steps to make it more wildlife-friendly:

Anything that attracts insects will attract birds

Pollen-rich flowers look pretty and offer plenty of food for insects. Planted in borders or in pots, they’re a great way to attract invertebrates to your patch. Try these plants for early-summer blooms:bumblebee-400

Aquilegia                             
Astilbe
Campanula
Comfrey
Delphinium
Everlasting sweet pea
Fennel
Foxglove
Hardy geranium
Potentilla
Snapdragon
Stachys
Teasel
Thyme
Verbascum

If you have more space for planting, many shrubs like Buddleia and Forsythia and fruiting trees like Cherry and Apple attract bees, butterflies and other insects, and birds like to eat the buds as well.

Aim for a variety of heights and shapes

Different heights of plant will attract different types of birds – many species prefer to nest at particular heights.

Dense ground-cover will protect small animals and birds from predators – try Fuchsia, Berberis, Pyracantha & perennials (spiky plants will deter predators!).

Tall hedges often have many species of bird nesting at the same time and provide habitat for a wide range of other creatures – why not plant a natural hedge including Hornbeam, Field Maple, Blackthorn, Wild Cherry and Dog Rose?

For small gardens where space is at a premium, planting climbers is a great way to attract insects and provide extra height and levels of habitat; try Jasmine, Ivy, Clematis and Honeysuckle. Some trees will also do well in containers, or build a pergola and grow Roses or Passionflowers.

Bushy shrubs and trees will provide extra nesting sites as well as escape routes – Amelanchia and Hazel are good examples.

Stonechat + caterpillar 2


Don’t be too tidy!

Lawns are a surprising source of food for ground feeders like thrushes and blackbirds, where they can hunt for worms; and woodpeckers also hunt out ants. Try not to mow your lawn too often – by allowing wild flowers to grow, this can make a huge difference to your wildlife.

Rotting logs and crumbling walls not only encourage insects, but also mosses and lichens – all excellent food sources for birds.

Is your garden paved? Do you have a patio or yard? If not, consider adding some large stones to your garden which birds can use to help break into snail shells.

If you have small pond, perhaps consider adding a boggy area to create more habitat.

Ferneries can also combine many of the requirements needed for insects, snails, slugs, frogs, hedgehogs and therefore birds, as well as a solution to that dark dank corner of the garden where nothing else will grow!

Happy gardening! Remember to let us know who comes to visit this year – we’d love to hear from you and see your photos on our Facebook page.

Regional dialects in songbirds

A fascinating citizen science project has successfully mapped the distribution of dialects in yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) in both New Zealand and the UK.

Yellowhammers, like us, have regional dialects, with differences in their song depending on the region that they live. A familiar farmland bird in the UK, the species was introduced to New Zealand over 100 years ago, and this has provided researchers with a unique opportunity to investigate two completely isolated populations.

The Yellowhammer Dialects project used citizen science volunteers to record yellowhammer song in the field. This allowed the project to access lots of data from across a very large area, which was then compared with historic recordings from archives. All this information was then used to accurately map the composition and distribution of different dialects in the two countries.

Researchers found an interesting difference in dialect between the populations of yellowhammers, with New Zealand yellowhammers sing nearly twice as many different dialects than yellowhammers in the UK.

They explain this result by suggesting that New Zealand yellowhammers have retained song structures which were originally from the UK, but have subsequently been lost in the mother country, perhaps due to the widespread decline in yellowhammers in the UK.

The yellowhammer dialect system may be the avian equivalent of a phenomenon already noted in human languages, in which ancient words or structures are retained in expatriate communities.

A fascinating finding, and one which will hopefully be complemented by further results in the near future; after the success of this project, the researchers have decided to host sister projects in both Switzerland and Poland.

The full research paper can be found here.

Scientists Track, For the First Time, One of the Rarest Songbirds on Its Yearlong Migration | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian

An amazing feat for a tiny creature!

Weighing the same as a small carrot, every year, this rare North American songbird travels nearly 4,000 miles round trip, across mountain ranges, the body of a continent, the Gulf Stream and open ocean. Most of this journey has been a mystery, until now.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/scientists-track-first-time-one-rarest-songbirds-its-yearlong-migration-180962390/#jGmhL26dY4bCE5Bh.99
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The journey of the Kirtland’s warbler is discovered thanks to a combination of the latest tiny technology and centuries-old solar location methods

Source: Scientists Track, For the First Time, One of the Rarest Songbirds on Its Yearlong Migration | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian