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Britain's feeders boost bird population Norfolk study shows

PUBLISHED: 14:37 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:04 22 May 2019

Feeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: David Tipling

Feeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: David Tipling

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Bird lovers who put feeders and food out for our feathered friends have boosted the population of an array of species that flock to our garden's, a scientific study suggests.

Feeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Malcolm RobertsonFeeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Malcolm Robertson

The study, by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), based at Nunnery Lakes, near Thetford, examined bird food adverts to track the growing popularity of feeding wild birds over the past 40 years, with a rising number of products and a wider range of foods.

Lead author Dr Kate Plummer, research ecologist at BTO, said: "The joy we get from feeding has pushed the market forward with how we can feed birds rather than just helping with their survival.

"We do see households becoming quite attached to birds and with most not having an opportunity to get out into the countryside it offers people the chance to bring nature a lot closer."

The industry is now worth an estimated £200m to £300m a year in Britain with specialist foods, such as sunflower hearts and fat balls, first appearing in the 1990s as companies backed by conservationists deliberately increased the range of products to attract more species.

Feeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Valerie BondFeeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Valerie Bond

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Internal garden manager at Thetford Garden Centre, Chris Gooderson, said: "People almost treat them as their pets now. We have seen a lot more people move towards the more expensive feed and it is because people will view the wildlife in their garden as another member of the family rather than wildlife.

"We have two Robins in the centre who will come inside to keep warm in winter and we see them about.

"In the winter we sell more of the lard-based feeds and in the summer it is more nut focused."

Feeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Garry DockerillFeeding birds in our gardens has seen a huge boost in population figures, study suggests. Picture: Garry Dockerill

The researchers also looked at 40 years of data from the Garden Bird Feeding Survey, run by the BTO, and found an increase in the range of birds using garden bird feeders since the 1970s.

With such a large market for bird feeding goods it can often be quite daunting for people just starting to attract birds into their garden.

Dr Plummer added: "There is a big range of food out there and it ranges in quality. My advice would be to have a look around, see what is available.

"Try and get food with high seeds quantities and high protein also different types of perches. To help stop the spread of diseases wash them every so often with soapy water."

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