Gardens for Birds

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Most of us live in urban areas, and many of us have access to a garden.


There’s a huge interest in wildlife gardening in the UK, we spend £200 million on bird food every year!

But how do we know if we are doing the right thing for wildlife?


SongBird Survival partnered with the University of Reading’s Urban Ecology Research Group to study birds in urban areas.


Funding was through SBS's Keith Duckworth scholarship.


This PhD project looked at the following questions:

  • What are the effects of attracting large numbers of birds to garden feeders?

  • Does bird feeding affect songbird disease, predation or productivity?

  • How can we increase garden bird survival, productivity or diversity?

The results of this research will help us determine the best ways of supporting our garden bird populations.


Provision of supplementary food for wild birds may increase the risk of local nest predation
Hugh J. Hanmer, Rebecca L. Thomas & Mark D. E. Fellowes
2016. Ibis, 159, 158–167 

Use of anthropogenic material affects bird nest arthropod community structure: influence of urbanisation, and consequences for ectoparasites and fledging success
Hugh J. Hanmer, Rebecca L. Thomas, Gareth J. F. Beswick, Bradley P. Collins and Mark D. E. Fellowes
2017. Journal of Ornithology 1-15

Urbanisation influences range size of the domestic cat (Felis catus): consequences for conservation
Hugh J. Hanmer, Rebecca L. Thomas and Mark D. E. Fellowes
2017. Journal of Urban Ecology 1-11

Introduced Grey Squirrels subvert supplementary feeding of suburban wild birds
Hugh J. Hanmer, Rebecca L. Thomas & Mark D.E. Fellowes
2018. Landscape and Urban Planning 177 10-18

Researcher profile:


Hugh Hanmer - PhD student

Hugh holds a BSc Zoology (Hons) degree and an MRes in Environmental Biology from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. His background lies strongly in ecology and especially ornithology, having been involved in bird research most of his life. His undergraduate degree dissertation focused on Redshank winter foraging ranging behaviour and his postgraduate dissertation looked at survival in tropical rainforest birds in Trinidad.

Hugh has been a birdwatcher since he was very young and a BTO bird ringer for more than 10 years, ringing over 20000 birds of over 350 species in 9 countries across 4 continents.


He has been involved in various UK-based projects, including reed bed Constant Effort Site (CES) ringing, island seabird ringing, autumn coastal migration monitoring and winter garden ringing.


With his father, Hugh helped set up a large scale long term Barn Owl box monitoring scheme that is active across his home county of Northumberland. 


Follow Hugh on twitter.