Birdfeeding Changes Evolution

Free lunch rocks birds' futures
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2009 4:53 AM CST
Birdfeeding Changes Evolution
Townsend's warbler wonders what's for supper.   (?goingslo)

Darwin never made allowances for birdfeeders, but modern-day scientists have discovered that giving feathered friends a helping hand can have profound evolutionary consequences. Filling up birdfeeders with seeds and suet can convince birds to hang around for the free lunch, rather than take off of their migratory routes, researchers have found. European blackcaps who snack at birdfeeders in England instead of migrating to winter grounds in Spain to feast on fruit are on the verge of becoming their own stay-at-home species.

The birdfeeding blackcaps mate only with one another and are already developing distinctive beaks, wings and plumage. "By feeding birds in winter we produce an evolutionary split," said the lead scientist. "And we have produced these initial steps in as little as 50 years." (More evolution stories.)

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