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From nest building to life-history patterns: does food supplementation influence reproductive behaviour of birds?

Smith, Jennifer Alison (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Supplementary feeding wild birds is a widespread phenomenon. Recently, non-governmental organisations have recommended that the bird-feeding public should feed wild birds throughout the breeding season. Currently, such recommendations are not supported by a large body of research findings to suggest that food supplementation has benefits for breeding birds. To investigate this further I provided two commercially available wild bird foods (peanut cake and mealworms [Tenebrio molitor]) to Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and Great Tits (Parus major) breeding in a woodland in Central England from 2007 to 2009. Supplementary feeding significantly advanced nest construction and decreased brood provisioning rates for both species. Supplemented Blue Tits significantly decreased daily incubation activity and increased both the proportion of extra-pair young and proportion of males per brood while supplemented Great Tits decreased incubation recess lengths. Analyses of data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Nest Record Scheme suggested that probable widespread supplementary feeding of both Blue and Great Tits in urban habitats from 1962 to 2008 influenced breeding parameters across the study period but measuring food availability across wide spatial scales remains problematic. I discuss the implications of my results within an urban garden bird feeding context and provide suggestions for future research.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Reynolds, James and Martin, Graham
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Biosciences, Centre for Ornithology
Subjects:QH301 Biology
QH Natural history
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1351
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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