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01.06.2015 | Ausgabe 2/2015 Open Access

Urban Ecosystems 2/2015

Supplementary feeding of wild birds indirectly affects ground beetle populations in suburban gardens

Urban Ecosystems > Ausgabe 2/2015
Melanie E. Orros, Rebecca L. Thomas, Graham J. Holloway, Mark D. E. Fellowes


Supplementary feeding of wild birds by domestic garden-holders is a globally widespread and popular form of human–wildlife interaction, particularly in urban areas. Vast amounts of energy are thus being added to garden ecosystems. However, the potential indirect effects of this activity on non-avian species have been little studied to date, with the only two previous studies taking place under experimentally manipulated conditions. Here we present the first evidence of a localised depletive effect of wild bird feeding on ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in suburban gardens under the usual feeding patterns of the garden-holders. We trapped significantly fewer ground beetles directly under bird-feeding stations than in matched areas of habitat away from feeders. Video analysis also revealed significantly higher activity by ground-foraging birds under the feeding stations than in the control areas. Small mammal trapping revealed no evidence that these species differ in abundance between gardens with and without bird feeders. We therefore suggest that local increases in ground-foraging activity by bird species whose diets encompass arthropods as well as seed material are responsible for the reduction in ground beetle numbers. Our work therefore illustrates that providing food for wild birds can have indirect negative effects on palatable prey species under typical conditions.
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