New study into shared parental workload shows cooperation makes a huge difference to nestling survival
Parent birds timed their arrival and departure at the nest over 67% of the time
This produced a reduction in nest disturbance by 36%
This is the first time a study into parental behaviour during nesting has been carried out and tested the hypothesis that mates synchronize their behaviours to decrease total activity at the nest, which is known to affect predation rate in birds.
It examined if parents synchronise their feeding trips more when nestlings are at the poikilothermic (http://bit.ly/2J2IXMx) stage, and they may be more vulnerable to nest predation due to their inability to escape and survive outside the nest without parental brooding.
It also investigated the alternation of feeding trips by parents and showed that parents synchronise the majority of their feeding trips during the whole nestling period, and the level of parental synchrony is higher before nestlings develop endothermy (http://bit.ly/2x26bNF).
The study showed the alternation of male and female feeding trips was much higher than would be expected by chance and was positively related to parental synchrony.
It demonstrated that synchronisation of parental feeding trips significantly decreased parental activity at the nest, and nest survival time increased with the synchrony of parental feeding trips.
Warmer springs create a mismatch where hungry chicks hatch too late to feast on abundant caterpillars, new research shows
With continued spring warming expected due to climate change, scientists say hatching of forest birds will be increasingly mismatched with peaks in caterpillar numbers.
The researchers, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the universities of Sheffield, Exeter, and Edinburgh, used data collected across the UK – largely by citizen scientists – to study spring emergence of oak tree leaves and caterpillars, and timing of nesting by three bird species: blue tits, great tits and pied flycatchers.
Dr Karl Evans, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: “Our work suggests that as springs warm in the future, less food is likely to be available for the chicks of insectivorous (insect eating) woodland birds, unless evolution changes their timing of breeding.”
A certain generation will remember singing in school assembly the hymn ‘Morning has broken’ with the lyrics ‘blackbird has spoken like the first bird…’
Biologists think this may be because they are settled in their territory and are letting others know their whereabouts.
Some ornithologists think that birds like to sing in the morning because the sound carries further…….
Police on British military bases in Cyprus have used drones and night vision goggles to turn the tide in a campaign against illegal trappers catching and killing hundreds of thousands of songbirds
Officers working with forces personnel estimate they have cut the number of migratory songbirds caught in trappers’ nets by as much as 70 per cent and destroyed large amounts of kit used to catch them
The year-long crackdown on illegal bird poaching on the British sovereign bases in Cyprus has resulted in a “huge” drop in the number of poachers operating inside the bases’ territory
Small migratory birds such as blackcaps are considered a traditional delicacy by some Cypriots and sophisticated trapping feeds a multimillion-pound illicit trade.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said: “Bird trapping is not only a cruel and barbaric trade, it lines the pockets of criminal gangs to the tune of thousands of pounds.
“Thanks to the fantastic work of our Armed Forces and the Sovereign Base Police there has been a 70 per cent fall in the number of birds killed in the Sovereign Base Areas. By seizing and destroying the tools criminals use, we are protecting migratory birds and hitting bird trappers in the pocket. And by doubling the number of thermal image drones used to catch the poachers, we will strive for even more positive results.”
The SongBird Survival summer newsletter is now available to read online.
Featuring the latest news from our research projects, bird news and details of our summer show season, you can browse the full publication on our website.
Although broadleaved woodland, an important habitat for many birds, is increasing in the UK, songbird populations are still in decline. An interesting new review of previous research, combined with a field study by the Forestry Commission, has provided some possible solutions to this quandary.
Researchers studied a representative sample of broadland lowland woodlands in England and Wales, assessing the effect of woodland management (silvicultural intervention and control of deer browsing) on vegetation structure, and the relationships between vegetation structure and woodland birds.
Different bird species have different habitat and resource requirements, which researchers identified from a review of existing literature. For example, while hawfinches mainly forage in woodland canopy, dunnocks forage on the ground and willow tits are reliant on the shrub layer for their foraging requirements. Wood warblers prefer mature woodland, whereas song thrush require woodland in a younger stage of development.
As well as summarising resource requirements for 17 target bird species, the study classified different woodland stand structures from A to F, which related to their value to birds:
A – dense low shrub layer
B – dense high shrub layer
C – open understory
D – open canopy
E – closed canopy, few strata
F – closed canopy, multiple strata
The most frequently occurring structures found currently in lowland broadleaved woodlands in England and Wales were stand type E, which are of least value to woodland birds.
The crucial finding from this research is that a very high proportion of lowland broadleaved woodland in England and Wales is of fairly uniform structure. This lack of structural heterogeneity means that our woodlands are missing the mosaic of habitats which different bird species rely on.
Simply increasing the UK’s area of broadleaved woodland is not enough to help songbird populations recover: these woodlands need appropriate, targeted management to deliver a mixture of different stand structures at the landscape scale.
This research has identified a novel approach, providing woodland owners and managers with practical management advice to increase the biodiversity value of their woodland. Creating a more diverse structure through targeted woodland management practices is essential to provide suitable habitat and resources, and to enable woodland bird populations to thrive.
Read the full research paper here.
Today is World Migratory Bird Day – an international celebration of the ecological importance of birds.
Watch the official World Migratory Bird Day trailer here:
Their future is our future!
To learn more about the fantastic collaborations which are happening to help conserve our migratory birds, visit the World Migratory Bird Day website.
Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 1 May 1917, this little insight into the sounds of the countryside a century ago makes for an enchanting read.
But there’s a more sombre angle to take note of as well: with the numbers of songbirds declining in the UK, our dawn chorus is getting harder and harder to hear. The sounds of spring today are much less rich than in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.
SongBird Survival aims to save the dawn chorus for tomorrow by researching the reasons for songbird decline in the UK, and promoting solutions to restore their numbers.
With International Dawn Chorus Day taking place this weekend, Sunday 7th May, now is a fantastic time to get outdoors and hear this wonderful natural spectacle for yourself.
Well done B&Q! As the UK’s leading garden centre retailer, they’ve just commissioned a report into the importance of gardens for wildlife, with practical ideas on how to help.
It includes a top 10 tips for beginner gardeners, including creating shelter, ponds, and making your cat safe and seen to reduce the threat to wildlife:
The report shows that 67% of people are concerned about British wildlife, and with 24 million gardens in the UK, there’s plenty of scope for people to get involved. Having a small garden doesn’t stop you from making a difference for wildlife. Even small spaces are valuable for songbirds and other wildlife. SongBird Survival have some great tips for small spaces, as well as lots of information on planting for birds.
With wildlife conservation news often focused on the doom and gloom, B&Q’s report shows that there’s a lot to be hopeful about in terms of UK wildlife.
To find out more about how you can help wildlife in your garden, read the full B&Q Nature of Gardens report here.