Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Birds follow green spaces to move between feeders

BirdWatching may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. BirdWatching does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting BirdWatching.
Blue Tit at feeder. Photo by Lewis Collard via Wikimedia Commons.
Blue Tit at feeder. Photo by Lewis Collard (Wikimedia Commons)

The benefits of feeding stations are obvious — to the birds that visit them and the people who maintain them — but many gardens are small and separated from other yards by roads, rivers, and other barriers. In order to maximize the benefits, we need to understand how birds move between feeders.

Between June 2013 and August 2014, researchers in southern England employed radio-frequency-identification technology to find out. They equipped 452 Blue Tits and Great Tits, relatives of chickadees, with tiny transponders and placed receivers on 51 feeders. Each time a tagged bird visited a feeder, the receiver recorded the date and time as well as the identity of the bird.

The results promise to help planners looking to improve their communities. The researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports that a higher percentage of vegetation cover increased both the likelihood that birds would move between feeders and the frequency of movement. In areas where green space was highly fragmented, birds moved between feeders in vegetated corridors. Large trees and shrubs were especially important to connectivity, write the researchers, while road gaps did not prevent movement between feeders but did decrease the frequency of visits. — Julie Craves

Read the paper

Daniel T. C. Cox, Richard Inger, Karen Anderson, and Kevin J. Gaston (2016) Movement of feeder-using songbirds: the influence of urban featuresScientific Reports, Vol. 6: 37669 (November 23, 2016): doi:10.1038/srep37669

A version of this story will appear in the April 2017 issue of BirdWatching, available on February 28 at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands.


Why birds sometimes abandon feeders.

Five backyards that birds love.

Map your backyard to attract birds.


New to birdwatching?

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, descriptions of birding hotspots, and more delivered to your inbox every other week. Sign up now.


See the contents of our current issue.

How to subscribe to BirdWatching.


Originally Published

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free