British Birds Tap Into New Food Source

February 26, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Many bird species have amazing ways of adapting to changes in their environment, and a recent study in Britain has revealed that great tits, blue tits and other native species are tapping into a new food source as a counteractive measure against the effects of climate change. Some bird species have started laying their eggs too early in the year, most likely as a result of climate change, and this has resulted in their chicks hatching out before their food source is available, the food source being caterpillars that feed on newly sprouting oak leaves in spring. The new food source is the protein-rich larvae of invasive oak marble gall wasps which the birds access by pecking away the tips of the galls found on the oak trees. Researchers working on the project, Professor Graham Stone of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr Karsten Schönrogge of the Center for Ecology and Hydrology, noted that the evidence shows that the gall wasp larvae are not just an ‘occasional snack’, but rather a ‘really significant food source’.

The oak marble gall wasp (Andricus kollari) lays its eggs within the oak tree leaf buds via its ovipositor. This then develops into a round mass of green plant tissue which later turns brown and becomes hardened. Within this hardened gall there is a single wasp larva, and this is what the bird is after. These galls are found in their thousands on the Turkey oak trees (Quercus cerris) which were introduced into Britain in 1735. The first wasps that emerge are all female and go on to lay their eggs in the same manner, but without mating. The galls grow over winter and in early spring both males and females hatch, go on to mate, and the cycle starts again.

Credit goes to Dr Tracey Begg who had the task of cutting open more than 30,000 Turkey oak buds collected from eight sites in Scotland and England. Of the 3,000 galls she examined, Dr Begg found that on some trees up to half had been pecked open, leaving ragged marks, as opposed to the smooth hole wasps create when they emerge naturally, confirming that the birds are using the wasp larvae as a major food source.

British Birdwatching Fair 2009

July 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Events

The British Birdwatching Fair is not only a wonderful opportunity for bird and wildlife enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of their favorite bird species, but assists the bird fair to raise funds for various wildlife projects. Exhibitors come from far and wide to attend what is referred to as the largest international bird watching event in the world. Over and above browsing the stores and hiking through nature, birding enthusiasts can look forward to interesting workshops and seminars that are hosted throughout the fair.

So for birding fun, seeing rare birds, supporting conservation and buying great accessories such as sculptures, bird toys, binoculars and booking your next eco-holiday, get down to the British Birdwatching Fair. For more information, visit the bird fair website at www.birdfair.org.uk .

Date: 21 – 23 August 2009
Venue: Egleton Nature Reserve
City: Oakham, Rutland
Country: United Kingdom

Family Tree Gives Clues to Next Endangered Bird Species

June 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The recent completion of a new genetic family tree of the United Kingdom’s birds has thrown new light on attempts to assess which bird species might be most at risk of future endangerment. The family tree – or phylogenetic map – provides a clear depiction of how different species are related. It was compiled by Dr Gavin Thomas from the NERC Center for Population Biology, and when compared to existing lists of endangered bird species, Thomas found that most of the birds currently fighting for survival were grouped together on the same branches of the family tree.

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