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Garden feeding is ‘shaping bird communities’
Today, a broader range of species are commonly seen at feeders, with particularly marked changes in goldfinches and wood pigeons.

Forty-year study links feeding with rise in numbers and diversity 

The popular pastime of feeding garden birds appears to have led to an increase in the population of several species, and the diversity of species visiting feeders.

This is according to a new study by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Researchers analysed data from the BTO’s Garden Bird Feeding Survey, alongside information from advertising in the RSPB Birds magazine over a 40-year period, to show how the number and variety of food products has risen in this time.

Findings suggest that in the 1970s, garden bird feeders were dominated by two species, the house sparrow and starling.

Today, a broader range of species are commonly seen at feeders, with particularly marked changes in goldfinches and wood pigeons. In 1973, fewer than 20 per cent of survey participants reported these species at their feeders, but this number has now jumped to 80 per cent.

Population increases were not seen in species that do not visit garden feeders, however.

BTO said garden feeding is ‘almost certainly reshaping entire bird communities’ but the large-scale, long-term effects on community ecology are not known.

The charity added: ‘Urban areas of Britain are consequently nurturing growing populations of feeder-using bird species, while the populations of species that do not use feeders remain unchanged. Our findings illustrate the on-going, gross impact people can have on bird community structure across large spatial scales.’

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Stephen Fry lends voice to frog conservation film

News Story 1
 Comedian and author Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a new animation that hopes to raise awareness of deadly ranavirus, which is threatening the UK’s frogs.

Research by ZSL, who created the short film, suggests that at least 20 per cent of ranavirus cases over the past three decades, could be attributed to human introductions. This includes pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn and plants from other environments.

Amphibian disease expert Dr Stephen Price said: “People can help stop the spread by avoiding moving potentially infected material such as spawn, tadpoles, pond water and plants into their own pond. Disinfecting footwear or pond nets before using them elsewhere will also help.” 

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Scotland to fund OV training

The Scottish Government has revealed it will fund training for new Official Veterinarians (OVs), covering the Essential Skills, Statutory Surveillance and TB Testing.

Funding will also be provided for the revalidation of Essential Skills, as well as TB Testing for existing OVs. This is the second round of financial support from the Scottish Government for OVs.

BVA president Simon Doherty said he is “delighted” with the announcement.

“Official Veterinarians’ work in safeguarding animal health and welfare and ensuring food safety is invaluable,” he added. “This announcement has come at a crucial time, with Brexit and an uncertain future ahead, the role of OVs will be more important than ever in enabling the UK’s trade in animal products.