About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open?

Because of the snow last night, the tree directly behind my apartment snapped at the base and is completely unsalvageable. My birds had been using that tree and a congregating/roosting spot. Should I still feed “my” birds even though they will now have limited cover? I have a huge bush about 50 feet away, but will that be enough protection for them being that there are also hawks in the area? Feeding birds is a huge thing for me (I state the obvious…), but I also don’t want “my” birds to be sitting targets for “my” hawks. Thoughts? ~ Lansing, MI

I’m sorry you lost your feeding tree. I had lots of bendy trees but none broken. Hopefully today's sun will melt a little of the snow and give my trees and bushes a little relief.

Feeding in the open shouldn't be a problem. When hawks hunt, they perch on a tall observation post. One of the many birds you attract should be able to signal the alert to warn of predators or they can band together to chase the hawk out of the area.

Ground feeding birds would be the most vulnerable to attacks. Now that the protection of the tree is gone, birds eating at a feeder with a roof or under weather guards or awnings are a little safer. But also with no trees and underbrush to dodge, a panicked birds’ forward speed isn’t reduced, which maximizes the chances that they can escape.

Studies estimate that only 10 percent of a hawk’s pounces are successful, and the majority of the birds the hawk takes are usually the weakest of the flock. So try to refresh you snowy/iced feeders and continue to feed.

These icy days are the worst for the birds. Their natural food sources may have become covered with snow or locked in ice. At those times, bird feeders are often their only source of food available. ~ Sarah

I’m glad your trees are okay. Bendy is good, laying horizontal is…so not.

Thank you for your response! I’m glad that losing the tree won’t be too much for them to handle. I figured they could probably deal with it, but I also know that having shelter is a good thing. I definitely fed them this morning (when the tree was still semi-upright), and will continue to do so, especially with winter looking like it’ll stay for a while. Have a good day!

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