British garden birds could disappear by 2100, here’s how we can help

Who doesn’t love listening to the sounds of birds in the morning? British garden birds are a wonderful sight in any garden, but recent studies suggest that less and less birds are being spotted around Britain. While the reasons behind their disappearance are still being studied, discover some of the environmental reasons behind their decline and how British gardens can help.

The Data

According to data found by The RSPB, sighting of common birds have declined rapidly since since 1979. RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch data shows that common species such as house sparrows are down 53% and starling sightings are down 80%. The reasons behind these declines are still under study, however there are some obvious factors. A lack of green spaces around the UK, and the continual effects climate change are to name a few. With our climate getting warmer, this could be bad news for bird species that depend on stable access to food in certain seasons.

Several bird species depend on the abundance of larvae while their young are small. Great tits have evolved to breed at the same time that insect larvae is at its most abundant. This is to ensure the breed has a ready food source for their chicks. The larvae feeds on leaves but as earlier springs causes trees to leaf out earlier; this will cause larvae that feed on the plants to hatch out earlier. If larvae supply peaks earlier in the spring than normal due to higher temperatures, this could lead to a lack of food for the hatchlings.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology used population models of several bird species to calculate the consequences of different climate scenarios. While great tits can evolve to keep up with prey, a faster change in temperature could see the birds left behind. The ‘breaking point’ is estimated to be when larvae and leaves are produced 24 days earlier than they are at the moment. The University researchers found that the worst case scenario could lead to whole populations of great tits disappearing by the year 2100, simply because they aren’t able to procure enough food for their young.

How we can help garden birds

“The good news is that the populations will be able to survive scenarios with lower or medium warming trends,” says Emily Simmonds, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. So to help our british garden birds, we need to control the environmental changes caused by climate change.

No task is too small when it comes to helping combat climate change. That being the case, people can make a huge contribution by cutting energy use as much as possible. Simply buying energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights when not needed, using the eco settings on washing machines can make an impact.

Wondering how you can help in the garden? Dr Kate Plummer, of the British Trust for Ornithology says buying a bird feeder “provides water and places for animals to shelter and breed”. Around half of UK householders are now thought to feed birds in their gardens, helping to keep our local species well-fed and safe. More ways to help in the garden is to create a safe haven for British garden birds by growing native plants. As well as using fewer pesticides, and adding a bird bath.

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