Gardeners and birdwatchers are encouraged to get involved with a new study which aims to discover how birds use berries and other fruits during autumn and winter.

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The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), based in Thetford, hopes to use the data to plug a gap in knowledge about which varieties are favoured by which species.

People can get involved with a free survey pack which will form the first large-scale national study of how birds use berries and fruits.

Head of garden ecology at the BTO, Mike Toms, said he hoped as many people as possible would get involved.

“In addition to some simple weekly recording throughout autumn and winter, we also need some people to carry out some more detailed work by participating in timed counts of birds eating berries,” he said.

Berries and fruits provide an important resource for birds during colder months, with those in gardens particularly well used by thrushes, starlings and wintering warblers. These become available at different times and there is evidence to suggest birds favour some fruits over others, often using colour to make their selection.

Despite a list of berries and fruits that have been put forward as being attractive to birds, however, the trust said there was a lack of hard scientific evidence showing which plants and varieties of plants were favoured by which bird species.

A free enquiry pack, containing more information on the survey, recording forms and advice on making a garden more attractive to birds is available from Birds and Garden Berries Study, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, call 01842 750050 or email gbw@bto.org.

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