Feeding garden birds – good or bad?

 

Most people derive immense pleasure from watching birds devour food they have supplied. Feeding birds also has the undeniably positive spin-off that it may start many people on a life-long interest in birds.

But, in reality, is feeding birds doing them a favour or does it merely serve to gratify our own human pleasure?

This question is asked and dealt with in an article by Charles and Julia Botha which was first published in Africa Birds and Birding seven years ago, but recently re-published in adapted form in a number of South African magazines.

There are many overseas studies regarding the consequences of feeding birds, the authors state.

One concern raised by a research study is that regular bird feeding may create a population level that cannot be sustained by the natural food supply in the area. Thus birds are encouraged to settle where they cannot support themselves once feeding stops.

Supplementary feeding often improves breeding results and causes earlier egg laying, which is of benefit to some species. However, in others, breeding too early brings negative results, because chicks are in the nest before the period when the maximum natural food becomes available. As a result, extra food supplements on offer during times less favourable for raising chicks can lead to a decrease, rather than an increase, in the survival rate of offspring.

With some surveys estimating that as many as 75% of UK households provide food for birds, this human influence on the ecology of birds is undeniable and is more than likely causing considerable disruption of the natural selection process.

To read the full article, including the authors’ suggested solution, click on this link: Feeding garden birds

3 comments on “Feeding garden birds – good or bad?

    • Colin, it happened a year or so ago when somebody in Voëlklip put artificial sugar in her bird feeder and the sugarbirds ‘dropped from the sky’. Not a clever thing to have done!

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