East Anglian birds feeling the heat

No.:  2010-07-36
July 2010

East Anglia’s ground-feeding birds are struggling to find food after weeks of dry weather. Worms and other invertebrates are buried deep underground and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is asking householders to keep bird tables well stocked.

Mistle Thrush by Jill Pakenham 

Mistle Thrush obtains invertebrate food by
probing with their beaks.

It might be a year late, but the long-overdue barbecue summer has finally arrived in East Anglia. However, while we can enjoy tossing burgers and freshly prepared salads in our gardens, spare a thought for ground-feeding birds for whom finding food might be a whole lot harder.

After a long spell of dry weather, the ground in East Anglia is hard-baked and the survival of ground-feeding birds, such as the thrush family, could be in the balance. Thrushes include familiar species such as Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, and these birds obtain invertebrate food by probing their beaks into the ground. However, the current arid conditions mean that the ground is now hard and their favoured foods are buried deeper underground.

This period of foraging austerity could hardly come at a worse time. Many individuals have only recently fledged the nest, and mortality rates are usually greatest during the weeks that follow. The current dry conditions mean that these vulnerable birds could be struggling just to find their next meal.

Dr Tim Harrison, of BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented, “The problems faced by ground-foraging birds appear to be greatest in East Anglia which, unlike other parts of the UK, has now been so dry for so long. By providing food for these birds on the ground and on bird tables, householders could be making the difference between life and death.”

He added “Thankfully, there has been a little bit of rain in the last few days, but the ground remains parched and rock-hard. The BTO has produced a free leaflet that householders can request from us to help them to decide what to feed the birds in their gardens.”

If you would like a free guide on feeding garden birds or if you are interested in joining BTO Garden BirdWatch please phone 01842 750050, email gbw [at] bto.org or write to BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Notes for Editors

  1. Top foods for your bird table, or to put on the ground:
  • Live mealworms (in a steep-sided tray)
  • Fresh (not dried) fruit, such as apple or pear
  • Grated vegetable or beef suet
  • Small seeds, such as sunflower hearts
  • Ground-up peanuts

Also, don’t forget plenty of clean freshwater for drinking and bathing.

  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 and Stirling, 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 15,000 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 information 

Dr Tim Harrison (BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07845 900559 (anytime)
Email: tim.harrison [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2010-07-36

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