Feeding wild bird is popular in domestic gardens across the world, with around half of households in the UK, North America and Australia doing so. Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little empirical information on many aspects of the activity. We sought to characterise garden bird feeding in a large UK urban area in two ways. First, we conducted face-to-face questionnaires with a representative cross-section of residents. Just over half fed birds, the majority doing so year-round and at least weekly. Second, a 2-year, longitudinal study recorded all foodstuffs put out by households on every provisioning occasion. In this way, we obtained the first year-round quantitative records of the amounts and types of wild bird food provided in individual gardens. A median of 127 g, equivalent to 628 kcal, was given daily per household (typically consisting of several food types). We estimated the daily cost of this provisioning level to be UK£0.35 per household based on the relative proportions of each food type. Provisioning level was not significantly influenced by weather or season. Comparisons between the data sets revealed significantly less frequent feeding amongst the feeders in the longitudinal study (assumed to be ‘keen’ feeders owing to their participation in this longterm study and numbers of food types provided) than the face-to-face questionnaire respondents, suggesting that questionnaires relying upon participants' estimates rather than records of provisioning may overestimate actual provisioning frequency. Assuming 100% uptake, the median provisioning level equates to sufficient supplementary resources across the UK to fully support 196 million individuals of a hypothetical average garden-feeding bird species (based on 10 common UK garden-feeding birds' energy requirements). This compares with an estimated total of 71 million breeding individuals of these 10 species in the UK (non-breeding numbers unknown). Taking the lowest provisioning level recorded (101 kcal/day) as a conservative measure, 31 million of these average individuals could theoretically be supported.
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Vol. 50 • No. 1