Bird feeders can give some birds ‘diseases’ says biologist – attract wildlife in other way

Conservation biologist explains why feeders aren't good for birds

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Professor Lees appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to give viewers tips on how to increase biodiversity in the garden. The biologist stressed that there is more you can do to attract birds and other wildlife in your garden apart from putting up bird feeders.

Professor Lees told presenters Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt that some bird species are increasing thanks to bird feeders in British gardens, but others are dwindling.

He said: “We know it’s been good for some of these species here – for instance, species like nut hatches and blue tits.

“Their populations have increased because of bird feeding.

“For some species which are declining, like the house sparrow, it could be really important for them in cities where there isn’t much food.

“But for other species, like the green finch – they have undergone this catastrophic decline because of catching diseases at bird feeders.”

Professor Lees explained the most common disease birds can catch is called Trichomonosis.

But this is not the only obstacle for birds.

Some species are decreasing in numbers due to having to compete with other, stronger species.

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Professor Lees said: “The marsh tit population has crashed, along with willow tit populations, because we may be giving a leg up to blue tits which compete with the marsh tits and the willow tits, which is then hurting the marsh tit populations.”

However, the biologist highlighted that the main goal of wildlife conservationists is to “maximise biodiversity” and not “favour one species over another”.

He therefore recommended doing more to your garden to attract wildlife and birds than just putting up bird feeders.

Professor Lees said: “To understand where we should be feeding and how and why, we do need more science to underpin that but, you know, the obvious thing to do to increase biodiversity in your garden isn’t just putting a feeder up.

“It’s to improve gardens for all sorts of species.”

The biologist added: “We’ve seen in recent years this sort of decrease in habitat in gardens.”

There are many tasks you can do to create a habitat for birds and other wildlife in your garden.

One easy trick is to let your garden grow wild and plant a mixture of shrubs and trees in it.

Birds like to shelter in bushes and hedges, and so having those in your garden will bring various species in.

Good ones to opt for include blossom and berry hedges, such as rowan, crab apple, elder, blackthorn, and hawthorn, which provide food for birds.

Another handy tip to attract wildlife is to provide water for them.

You can do this by installing a pond in your garden.

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