Let me start by saying good bird habitat is shrinking right along with all habitat. We think of forest as habitat and that it is only being depleted in tropical countries. However, considering that we are loosing hundreds of acres of forest and croplands per state, per day, to development…and add to that global warming which is creating havoc with weather and temperature which in turn creates havoc with what grows where…and to that add the results of pollution and poisoning of waterways, bodies of water and the earth and air that all living things depend upon…and you will understand why birds are declining. It is for that simple reason that I feed birds.
So many birds migrate; some traveling thousands of miles, sometimes over multiple continents; to get to breeding areas. Considering that they must find food and rest along the way…I rather enjoy the idea that I am helping the birds by feeding them. I keep my yard planted with native plants; it has been discovered native (natural) plants have more nutrition (nectar) than do those bred for beauty. I use no herbicides or insecticides and use natural fertilizers. I keep birdbaths and small ponds clean and free of ice, and I offer seed, suet, and nectar and sometimes nuts and fruit. At the height of summer, I slow down on the free meals and at the height of winter I increase the number of feeders times three or more. And I have a view far more interesting than the television set.
In my mind, we owe birds for the damage we’ve done removing their habitat; for ruining their water and depleting their natural foodstuffs. Birds are not just pretty beings; we need them for so much more than just entertainment. Birds are necessary for seed distribution and pollination; insect and invertebrate control; mouse and other such pest control, scavenging and keeping forests, rivers and parks clean. I think we owe ‘em. (and no, they won’t suffer if you go on vacation and don’t feed them for a few weeks).
Regarding the idea that feeding wild birds will cause them to stop migrating is an urban myth. Birds begin and quit migrating when weather changes. It has been discovered birds are moving migration sites some 40 miles north…due to climate change. That would be why we have some birds staying in
As far as bird flu goes…while it has been confirmed that wild birds are in part responsible for the spread of bird flu, it is from association with kept birds that humans become infected. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Audubon Society, all agree it is quite safe to feed wild birds.
I feed wild birds. I am comfortable that not everybody wants to do so. I love it that some folks ensure their yards include bird-friendly plants; plants that feed the birds and offer them places to rest or nest. That’s plenty good enough for me! Just watch those chemical poisons, please; and keep in mind it travels by wind and water…ever deeper and right into our waterways. Heard about dead zone in the
Feeding waterfowl seems to be a whole different ballgame, however. Most people feed bread and cheap bread at that. Bread, pop-corn, chips; all have little to no nutritional value. It also encourages the congregation of ducks to the point that water and shores and walkways become fouled with feces. Bread in water encourages algae, which choke out the life in water when overabundant. You’ve seen it happen. Please, don’t feed wild ducks!
All photos on this post from the free Wikipedia.