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

Smith, Jennifer Alison (2011). From nest building to life-history patterns: does food supplementation influence reproductive behaviour of birds? University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Biosciences
Funders: Other, Natural Environment Research Council
Other Funders: British Trust for Ornithology
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QH Natural history


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