Arctic blast threatens real Easter eggs

No.:  2012-13
April 2012

With eggs being laid and incubated by birds in gardens, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is reminding the public to keep feeders topped up as the weather turns colder.

Blue Tit by Jill Pakenham
 

Blue Tits often lay clutches that exceed
their own body weight

Warm weather over recent weeks has seen a flurry of nesting activity in gardens, with eggs being laid and incubated, and chicks being reared. Breeding so early in the year, however, runs the risk that cold weather can suddenly strike – as is happening now.

An Arctic blast has seen 18cm of snow fall overnight in parts of Scotland, and the cold, wet and windy weather is drifting southwards. To help birds at this sensitive time, the BTO is advising that garden feeding stations are topped up, and the charity has also issued a free feeding guide to help.

Producing eggs puts a big demand on female birds. Blue Tits, for example, often lay clutches that exceed their own body weight! Research shows that protein-rich food supplements – such as peanuts, sunflower hearts and mealworms – are likely to be most effective in giving laying females a timely boost.

During incubation, birds face a trade-off between feeding and warming their eggs. Too much time off the nest might cause eggs to chill and die; whereas too much time spent incubating could lead to starvation of the adult bird. The risk of both of these scenarios has increased with the incoming cold weather.

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “The cold, wet and windy weather that is sweeping across the country represents a real problem to nesting birds. Falling temperatures elevate the energetic demands on females, at exactly the time that they are producing and incubating their eggs.”

He added: “A well-stocked feeding station together with plenty of fresh water will enable garden birds to grab an easy meal during this critical period. More top tips can be found in the free BTO guide.”

For an electronic copy of the free BTO Feeding Guide, please email gbw [at] bto.org or telephone 01842-750050.

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk, Stirling and Bangor, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.
  2. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 14,500 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw

Contact Details

Tim Harrison
(Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am-5.30pm)
Email: tim.harrison [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2012-13

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview. Office: 01842 750050