Sarah Knapton, science editor
19 OCTOBER 2017 • 7:00PM
The British obsession for feeding birds is causing their beaks to grow longer so they can reach into bird feeders, scientists suspect. In an extraordinary example of rapid evolution, researchers have discovered that the UK tit has a beak up to 0.3mm longer than its European counterparts.
Although it sounds like a tiny difference, scientists believe even such a small advantage could aid survival, ensuring those with longer beaks live long enough to lay eggs, and pass on their genes.
Researchers at Oxford University have been studying the Wytham Woods great tit population in Oxfordshire for 70 years and recently spotted that British great tits’ beaks have been getting longer since the 1970s.
Scientists at Oxford also teamed up with researchers from Sheffield University, the University of East Anglia and Dutch experts to also examine whether genes have changed to allow for the longer beaks. They found significant differences in the DNA of British tits compared with those in the Netherlands.