RSPB: Robins, starlings, mallards and rooks
PUBLISHED: 14:29 19 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:42 20 February 2013
As January turns into grey February it can be hard to imagine when winter will leave us, and the joy of spring will arrive
As gloomy January turns into grey February it can be hard to imagine when winter will leave us, and the joy of spring will arrive.
Birds on the other hand, dont have time to daydream of sun blessed days there are far more pressing matters love is in the air.
The most obvious sign of birds preparing up for the new breeding season is the increase in lively birdsong that occurs from mid-January onwards. Robins, starlings, mallards and rooks pair up long before Valentines Day.
While some birds, such as robins, sing throughout the winter, others sing to attract potential partners and to assert to other birds the boundaries
of their patch.
Our waterways become a hive of activity. Ducks wont waste any time staking their claim to potential mates. Swaggering mallards will be paying very close attention to the ladies, and male teals will be found strutting
their stuff, showing off their fine plumage by stretching themselves into curious shapes.
Romantic male goldeneyes start their breeding preparations early, throwing back their heads in a very uncomfortable and painful-looking position in the attempt to impress, then leave Britain for Scandinavia to breed. To attract the best possible mate, birds have to look their best. This is why black-headed gulls get their hoods back. In autumn and winter, they have white heads with a dark smudge behind the eye, but for the breeding season, they grow dark brown feathers on their head.
The crossbill proves itself a tough little bird as it lays it eggs as early as January. Such behaviour from this small bird seems absurd why wouldnt it wait for the arrival of warmer weather? It is in fact motivated by food crossbills ingeniously time their offsprings arrival with the plentiful supply of pine seeds. For that same reason, blue tits time their egg-laying so that their chicks hatch with Mother Natures abundant provision of juicy caterpillars.
Pigeons and doves, such as the woodpigeon and collard dove, have no qualms about breeding young at any time of the year. Nesting has been recorded in every month not surprising given the year-round
easy availability of food on garden bird tables.
Sometimes, birds can be induced to start building nests and laying eggs by unseasonably high temperatures. Its hard not to suspect this is a pattern to come, with climate change disturbing the natural unfolding of events. Already, eggs are being laid earlier in the year, and summer visitors are arriving earlier and leaving later.
Climate change could cause real problems for some species unable to keep pace with the rate of change.
If you feel passionately that we need to make decisions today that will safeguard nature into the future, then please sign the RSPBs Letter to the Future and together we can make the world a richer place lettertothefuture/index.aspxwww.rspb.org.uk/applications/