Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Provide supplementary food after release

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Three studies from found that malleefowl Leipoa ocellata, Andean condors Vultur gryphus and pink pigeons Nesoenas mayeri used supplementary food when it was provided after release.
  • A replicated, controlled study from Australia found that malleefowl had higher survival when supplied with supplementary food.
  • A study in Peru found that supplementary food could be used to increase the foraging range of condors after release, or to guide them back to suitable feeding areas.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A study using Andean condors Vultur gryphus in arid mountains in Peru in 1980-1 to develop release techniques for Californian condors Gymnogyps californianus (Wallace & Temple 1987) found that both parent- and puppet-reared birds foraged on carcasses provided in the vicinity of the release site. In addition, moving where carcasses were placed and increasing the distance from the release site appeared to help increase the size of the foraging area used by birds. It also allowed researchers to guide birds back to good feeding areas when they were at risk of starvation in bad weather. Carcasses were moved by 50-75 m each day initially, and then by distances of up to 1.5 km as birds began to search more widely. This study is also discussed in ‘Artificially incubate and hand-rear birds in captivity’ and ‘Release captive-bred individuals’.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated controlled trial in New South Wales, Australia, in 1987 (Priddel & Wheeler 1990) found that significantly more malleefowl Leipoa ocellata chicks survived the first 30 days after release when provided with supplementary food, compared to control (unfed) birds, birds provided only with water or birds supplied with water but kept in an enclosure with 15 rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus (89% of nine fed chicks survived for 30 days vs. all 20 other chicks surviving for less than 20 days, with 85% dying within eight days of release). The one fed bird that died survived for six days before being drenched in heavy rain and dying. Of the other releases, six were killed by raptors, five died of starvation, five died of chilling following heavy rain, two died of unknown causes, one died of a cloacal blockage, and one was removed after it fractured its leg. All were found to have little or no food in the crop or gizzard, suggesting that food shortage was a contributing factor in all their deaths. Eggs were taken from wild nesting mounds, artificially incubated and released into 1 ha enclosures with electric fences to keep out mammalian predators. Food supplied consisted of 24 kg of seed mix in both feeders and spread on the ground and replenished at least once a week.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated study in mixed forests in Mauritius in 1987-91 (Jones et al. 1992) found that 61% of 44 released captive pink pigeons Nesoenas mayeri (formerly Columba mayeri) continued to use a supplementary feeding station at the release site one month after release. This study is also discussed in ‘Provide supplementary food to increase adult survival’, ‘Use captive breeding to increase or maintain populations’, ‘Release captive bred individuals’ and ‘Predator control on islands.’

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust