How bird feeders may be changing great tits’ beaks | Science News

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How bird feeders may be changing great tits’ beaks

Songbirds living in the United Kingdom have evolved longer bills than related birds in the Netherlands

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7:00am, October 23, 2017
Great tit

PINNOCHIO  Great tits in the United Kingdom may be evolving longer beaks because of more available food, thanks to the extensive use of bird feeders in the country.  

Some great tits in the United Kingdom are getting long in the beak — and it may have something to do with a British fondness for bird feeders.

Parus major songbirds are thought to be relatively similar throughout Europe. But comparing DNA data from great tits in the United Kingdom with those in the Netherlands revealed key genetic differences between the two populations. The analysis, published in the Oct. 20 Science, linked those genetic differences to a slightly longer beak in U.K. birds seen over the last few decades. Since beak length is known to be associated with food availability, the researchers speculate that the U.K. great tits may be adapting to the widespread use of bird feeders in the country.

In other studies, bird beaks have been shown to be sensitive to the environment and capable of rapid change, says coauthor Mirte Bosse, an ecologist at

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