From: Jessica Marshall, Discovery News
Published January 25, 2011 07:00 AM

Bird Feeders Can Skew Breeding Behaviors

As temperatures dip low in the Northern Hemisphere's deep midwinter, many birds are no doubt feasting on the seeds and suet hanging outside many of our homes. More than 40 percent of U.S. households and nearly 50 percent of U.K. households feed birds, according to estimates.


But two new studies suggest that feeding birds at bird feeders in the spring can influence behavior in surprising ways. While experts agree that people should continue their beloved pastime of feeding birds at backyard feeders, they also suggest that bird lovers should take a hiatus in feeding birds during the breeding season.

One of the studies looked at great tits and blue tits living in woods in England while the other considered great tits living in a test site bordering suburban Oslo, Norway. Both studies fed some birds and left others to find their own food.

The U.K. study, published in the journal Oecologia by James Reynolds of the University of Birmingham and colleagues, fed birds through the breeding season, from early March through the end of July.

As with many other studies of bird feeding, the fed birds laid their eggs earlier than unfed birds and incubated them for less time before they hatched.

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