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Bird Feeding Poses Many Risks

Arthur Dellea is a freelance PC expert who enjoys adventures with his wife and children, playing drums at church, and investigative writing.

Please Do Not Feed The Birds!

Please Do Not Feed The Birds!

Bird Feeding Poses Many Risks

The main rule for feeding wild animals is to avoid doing so when it could be harmful. There are many circumstances where we can hurt birds, our property, or even ourselves. Even though feeding neighborhood birds can benefit a single bird, experts are divided on whether feeding birds considerably benefits bird populations. It is simple for birds to spread disease when they are brought into close proximity on shared surfaces. They become more susceptible to predators when you draw them to the same location on a regular timetable. Inadvertent bird collisions with glass windows near feeders do occur occasionally. We don't want to increase these hazards given that the number of wild birds has decreased by about a third since 1970.

A dead crow

A dead crow

Bird Feeders Spread Diseases

Watch the birds at your feeder carefully. Remove your feeder until the birds have dispersed if any appear unwell. Feeders can attract uncommon types of birds and more birds than usual, which is a perfect environment for parasites, germs, salmonella, E. coli, and other contaminants. In order to reach the tempting treats, birds frequently swarm into small spaces, which makes it simpler for diseases to jump between birds. Feeders have contributed to outbreaks of avian diseases such avian influenza, West Nile virus, and Newcastle disease as well as severe strains of the respiratory sickness trichomoniasis.

Clean your feeder at least once every two weeks to reduce the risk of sickness. Newer versions may be readily disassembled for dishwasher cleaning, while older models can be cleaned by running a mild bleach solution through them. Every three to five days, hummingbird feeders should be cleaned. To help lower the risk of disease and deter rats, raccoons, and predators, sweep up old, moldy, and abandoned seed under your feeders.

Cat in a bird feeder

Cat in a bird feeder

Bird Feeders Attract Predators

A predator can emerge at any time if they chance to catch sight of the birds congregated at your feeder, which is one of the main reasons why birds disappear from feeders. Consider not having a feeder if cats frequent your yard; in the US and Canada, cats kill more than 2.5 billion birds each year. Smaller birds like songbirds and doves are prey to many predatory birds, which view them as simple snacks. You should take down your feeder for a few weeks if you think a predator has been close (remaining feathers or a hawk nearby are indicators of this). The predator will have left by then and won't be a threat. Suet and bird seed have a history of luring other creatures, including rodents, bears, and turkeys, which can lead to confrontations between people and wildlife.

Bear grabbing a bird feeder

Bear grabbing a bird feeder

Bird Feeders Attract Bears

Bear country forbids bird feeding because bears adore suet and bird seed. In order to gain weight for the next winter, bears enter a period of hyperphagia in the autumn. During this time, they travel farther in search of food and consume thousands of calories daily. When bears emerge from hibernation in the spring, they are ravenous and seek to refuel. Bears follow their noses in search of the high calorie content that bird seed, suet, corn, and other bird foods give thanks to their strong sense of smell. They'll go back there with their young, which won't be safe for bears or people in the long run. Once bears lose their fear of humans, they will cause property damage and even break into houses in search of quick food supplies.

Chipmunk with cheeks full of seed

Chipmunk with cheeks full of seed

Bird Feeders Attract Rodents

Mice, rats, squirrels, and chipmunks will go through the seed that the birds have dropped or thrown away at your feeder. Rodent populations can soar due to an overabundance of food sources, and because they need shelter, rats will try to enter homes. Mice are cunning when it comes to getting inside your house, and they'll even carry a lot of food within your walls to start storing it away for the winter. Mice can squeeze through a hole in your foundation or outside walls that is the size of a coin. One female mouse can have five to ten litters a year if she is well-fed, and the offspring are bigger and healthier. A family of six mice might grow to be more than 60 during the winter.

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Bird hit a window

Bird hit a window

Birds Collide With Windows

Birds may be confused and mistake a window for a clear flight path rather than a barrier if the window reflects the sky and surrounding trees or is particularly translucent. Place feeders more than 30 feet away from windows or no closer than three feet apart to prevent collisions. A feeder that is 30 feet or more away from a window is safe from distracting reflections, while one that is closer than 3 feet stops a bird from gaining enough momentum to collide fatally.

It also helps to change the way your window looks. Hang streamers, paste static-cling bird strike prevention decals—especially those that reflect ultraviolet light that is visible to birds but not to humans—four inches apart on the outside of the glass, or use soap to create a scene. If crashes continue, cover your windows with thin garden netting made of plastic to increase the likelihood that a bird will survive if it still takes a wrong turn.

Nest with only one egg

Nest with only one egg

Bird Feeders Change Bird Behavior

According to research, feeders have contributed to the northward range expansion of cardinals and Carolina wrens. Because there is enough prey at the feeders, some migratory hawks choose to remain put. Bird feeding has been associated in a few studies to decreased egg production and hatching success. The greatest thing for birds would be to maintain or restore their natural habitat, but in cases where it has been lost, feeding stations assist in supplying food choices along migratory routes. As an illustration, refuge feeding stations have native plants that offer seeds, nectar, and berries that are preferred by local and migratory bird species, and feeding is only done during specific seasons. There is nothing inherently wrong with feeding birds because it connects individuals to nature in their own backyard and serves as a transitional activity between lounging about the home and visiting a national wildlife refuge. We require the feeders, not the birds, though.

Sunflower in bloom

Sunflower in bloom

Plant Seedy Plants Instead Of Using Feeders

It is difficult to ecologically justify destroying natural habitat to build a house and a lawn, then installing bird feeders full of bird seed when it requires hundreds of thousands of additional acres of grassland and swampland to be ground up to make that bird seed. The cost of suet, seed, and bird feeders is likewise high. If you have a yard, start small. Yard treatments might be as easy as mowing your lawn only once a year or not at all in certain areas. Conservationists advise growing native plants, flowers, bushes, vines, trees, and evergreens to provide birds with food and shelter from predators and poor weather because they are frequently easier to care for than non-native species.

Hummingbirds are drawn to tubular, brightly colored flowers with trumpet shapes. Birds enjoy eating the seeds of marigolds, sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, and sunflowers. Birds that eat fruits and berries are drawn to several attractive shrubs and flowering trees. It is preferable to grow highly seedy plants in your yard, such as wingstem and perennial sunflowers, which are favorites of goldfinches and other birds. Cardinals and winter sparrows pick through aster, goldenrod, and brown-eyed Susan seeds. Chokeberry, sumac, and spicebush are favorites of fruit-loving birds such as catbirds, thrashers, and mockingbirds. You can choose healthy native plants that thrive in your region with the assistance of nurseries.

Enjoy your bird-friendly garden.

Enjoy your bird-friendly garden.

Birds Will Not Starve If You Don't Feed Them

In the summer, most birds don't require bird feeders. Many birds concentrate on eating insects when breeding and raising their young, therefore feeding is less important during such times. Take a pause from filling feeders in the summer so that young birds can learn how to discover naturally available food sources. Hummingbirds and goldfinches are two exceptions to this rule: Feed your summer hummers nectar in feeders to support their high metabolic rate, and feed your goldfinches nyjer seed up until the thistles set seed. Birds are skilled in locating even the smallest source of food, such as natural seeds, insects, and fruit, even during the arduous winter months. Since birds are wild creatures at heart, they won't go hungry without your feeder, so you may take it down whenever you like. Birds obtain the largest bulk of their food from natural sources, such as sunflower patches, grain fields, or different seed-sowing plants and insects in gardens and forests. They are adept small hunters and gatherers.

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© 2022 Arthur Dellea

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