green finch

Changing Bird Habits

Over the years, there has been a change in bird habits. Garden birds have begun breeding earlier and earlier in response to the mild weather we experience more regularly from March onwards. Gone are the days when it wasn’t an uncommon sight to see blankets of snow several feet deep, all the way from November to March.

Birds hedge their bets on whether to breed early and risk a cold spring, or to leave it later in the season. The latest information gathered in the Nest Record Scheme, which is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), shows that a significant number of species are breeding earlier than they did when records began in the 1960s. Thought to be caused by climate change as temperatures have increased over time.

Regardless of the cause, there is strong evidence to suggest that over 35 species of bird are laying their eggs between one and 27 days earlier, on average, than they did in the mid-1960s.

The garden bird species' reacting best to the changes in temperature are the Robin, Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Magpie. However, depending on the year, this may or may not be a good evolutional tactic.

Robin, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Magpie

Clockwise from top left: Robin, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Magpie

If birds lay early and it's a particularly cold spring, there's a chance that natural food sources will be thin on the ground, causing a food shortage. This can have a big impact on population levels at this critical time, when young chicks are being reared.

Help birds along the way by leaving out food and fresh water. It provides them with a guaranteed meal, which can very often mean the difference between a population boost or a further decline.