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Take Part

Below we will provide details of our current research projects. We rely on the goodwill and support of the community in Reading to enable us to work in gardens and other urban habitats. If you would like to get involved, click on our active project links to find out more. We look forward to hearing from you!

Active projects

Urban Bird Conservation - Does garden feeding affect the breeding success of garden birds?

Uncovering the hidden world of cats! - How does living on the edge of a green space influence the area cats roam and gifts they bring home?

Recent completed projects

Urban Red Kites

We found that almost 4500 households feed red kites in greater Reading, explaining why this raptor is now a common urban sight. Most people feed red kites to get close to them, providing chicken and other meats. This work has been published in the journals Bird Study and Ibis. Volunteers surveyed Reading's roads for road kill and surveyed red kite numbers.

Unexpected effects of supplementary feeding

We found that attracting birds to feeders results in a decrease in insects around the feeders, suggesting that we may be altering the diversity and abundance of often overlooked species in urban ecosystems. This work has been published in Basic and Applied Ecology and Urban Ecosystems. Volunteers allowed us access to their gardens and worked to collect data.

Supplementary feeding of wild birds

In the largest study of its kind, we found that food provided by garden owners for wild birds could theoretically support over 100 million birds! This work is published in Acta Ornithologica. Volunteers recorded how much food they provided and when.

Cats as urban predators

We found that pet cats may be responsible for predating over 188 million birds and small mammals in the UK a year. Few means of mitigating this were considered acceptable by cat owners. Each cat typically ranges over an area of almost two hectares, suggesting that areas sensitive to wildlife disturbance should have a buffer zone away from domestic dwellings of some 3-400m. This work has been published in PLoS ONE and Urban Ecosystems. Volunteers allowed us access to their gardens and allowed us to place GPS trackers on their cats, as well as recording the prey their cats returned.

The grass-free flower lawn

We worked to provide a beautiful and highly biodiverse alternative to the traditional grass lawn, using low growing, mowable and robust flowering plants. This work has resulted in new flower lawns being planted in urban parks in London and Reading, a silver medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. This work has been published in Biodiversity and Conservation, Landscape and Ecological Engineering, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. Volunteers helped us identify and monitor the insects visiting our experimental lawns.

Interested in garden birds?
Check out the details of our Urban Bird Conservation project to find out how you can take part.