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Feeding Birds in Winter Bolsters Spring Breeding February 8, 2008
Photo of Backyard Feeder
Food humans provide to backyard birds in winter appears to bring about a more successful breeding season in the spring.
A team of British researchers has found that feeding your backyard birds during winter not only helps them to survive the cold months, but also promotes more springtime breeding.

The team from the University of Exeter and Queen’s University Belfast provided some birds with extra food, such as peanuts, over the winter while leaving other birds in the study group to fend for themselves.

The two sets of birds produced the same number of chicks but the fledglings of the "supplement" group were far more likely to survive to the point where they could fly and leave the nest.

“The extra food we put out for birds contained fat, protein and carbohydrates, which may make the female bird stronger and more able to produce eggs,” said researcher Stuart Bearhop.

“Foods like peanuts and bird seed also include vitamins and minerals, which can also produce healthier eggs and chicks, and we currently have a research project looking at the role of energy versus vitamins in explaining these effects," Bearhop added.

The team speculates that providing extra food in backyard feeders year-round is also likely to be very beneficial to birds.

It is estimated that Britons and Americans put out more than 500,000 tons of food for birds each year.

Photo: © 2008 Claudiak - Fotolia

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