The Sugar-water Bird Feeding Project

Kia ora! My name is Daria Erastova. I am a PhD student at the University of Auckland carrying out a research project on how native birds interact with sugar-water feeders in urban backyards. The aim of this study is to find out what effect this practice has on bird welfare and social behaviour. Specifically, I am interested in comparison between Auckland and Dunedin, two big cities with differing climates and bird communities.

I am being supervised by Assoc. Prof. Margaret Stanley

Research Project

Feeding birds in urban parks, gardens and residential backyards is growing more popular worldwide allowing citizens, disconnected from nature, to engage with wildlife. The practice of feeding birds in residential gardens is becoming increasingly popular throughout New Zealand. According to a recent study, about half of New Zealand households feed birds in their gardens, with almost 20% of them providing sugar water for native birds. While we now understand the negative impacts of feeding bread and seeds on native bird communities, there is still little known about how provision of sugar water affects the behaviour and health of native birds. Having access to artificial food might have some advantages for visiting species, especially over winter when natural food sources are scarce and unevenly distributed. It may also contribute to reproductive success of local territorial birds. However, there are concerns that this practice risks changing bird behaviour and jeopardising their health.

This project will help to fill gaps in our understanding of the influence that sugar-water feeding has on foraging activity, social behaviour and our knowledge of bird disease dynamics. If you would like more information or to be kept updated about this research, contact me here.

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Further Reading

ARMSTRONG DP 1992. Correlation between nectar supply and aggression in territorial honeyeaters: causation or coincidence? Behaviour Ecology and Sociobiology 30:95–102.

BERGQUIST CAL 1985a. Differences in the diet of the male and female tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae: Meliphagidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 12(4):573–576.

BERGQUIST CAL 1985. Movements of groups of tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) in winter and settlement of juvenile tui in summer. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 12(4):569–571.

BERGQUIST CAL 1987. Foraging tactics of tui (Meliphagidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 14(3):299-303.

BERGQUIST CA1989. TUI SOCIODYNAUICS. Foraging behaviour, social organisation, and use of song by tui in an urban area. Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Phylosophy in Zoology, University of Auckland, http://hdl.handle.net/2292/2576

GALBRAITH JA, JONES DN, BEGGS JR, STANLEY MC 2017. Urban bird feeders dominated by a few species and individuals. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5, 81. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2017.00081

GALBRAITH JA, STANLEY MC, JONES DN, BEGGS JR 2016 Experimental feeding regime influences urban bird disease dynamics. Journal of Avian Biology 48: 700–713. doi:10.1111/jav.01076

GALBRAITH JA, BEGGS JR, JONES DN, STANLEY MC 2015. Supplementary feeding restructures urban bird communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1501489112

GALBRAITH JA, BEGGS JR, JONES DN, McNAUGHTON EJ, KRULL CR, STANLEY MC 2014. Quantification, drivers, and risks of wild bird feeding: a multifaceted approach to understanding the consequences of a popular human pastime. Biological Conservation. 180, 64-74, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.038

GRAVATT DJ 1971. Aspects of habitat use by New Zealand honeyeaters, with reference to other forest species. Emu 71: 65-72.

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