Are urban predators impacting upon our garden birds? Can you help with surveys?

Are urban predators impacting upon our garden birds? Can you help with surveys?

As you probably already know, urban areas pose many challenges for our birds, from disturbance from human activity, to increased numbers of predators than would be found in more rural areas.

The most common predator is the domestic cat which in Reading alone can reach very high numbers, but other lesser known predators could also be having an impact. These include magpies, woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and the grey squirrel. Predation isn?t the only problem;birds may also be indirectly ?stressed? by the presence of so many threats, reducing the number of young they can produce in a year.

So, how are populations coping with such high levels of predation and the ?stresses? of urban life? Unfortunately we don?t know! Urban birds aren?t really studied as well as more rural populations.

To resolve this lack of information the University of Reading researchers are seeking help from the Berkshire Ornithological Club. We need volunteer surveyors who would be available to complete one or more ?urban? BBS counts this year in the greater Reading area. Any time you could spare would be greatly appreciated. The results will also help us assess the significance of the built environment for bird populations more generally.

This work has recently been getting a lot of press coverage and has been written about in the national press.

For those not familiar with the BBS (Breeding Bird Survey) methodology, it entails two early morning surveys, one in late April/early May and the other in late May/June, of about 2 hours each. You walk two transects across a 1 km square noting all birds seen or heard using the area, so you should be familiar with the species likely to be found in gardens, parks and around buildings by sight and sound. The transects will be worked out by the University team, who will also do the habitat analysis (a great help). Full instructions, maps and forms will be provided. The survey areas are:

  • SU7572- Earley/ west Woodley
  • SU7773- East Woodley
  • SU7276- Emmer Green
  • SU7075 Caversham Heights
  • SU6972- Southcote
  • SU6773- Tilehurst

If you would like further information then please contact Becky Dulieu at or Renton Righelato at

27 March 2009