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.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Effects of backyard bird feeding

I was worried when I began feeding the birds that the birds may become addicted to my feeders. Now I’m worried that I am addicted to bird feeding. Is there any harm in feeding birds all the time? Wild Birds Unlimited is my favorite shop! Thank you Sarah for answering all my questions!

I’ve been feeding birds year-round for decades and have been rewarded by babies in the summer, interesting migrating birds in the spring and fall, and cheery birds in the dreary winter. Based on personal experience, if you maintain your feeders, feed the appropriate food for the birds in your area, and clean the feeders frequently, there is no harm in feeding all the time.

Among the most popular reasons that people feed wild birds is that they want to help birds. The extent to which supplemental food helps birds was not well established until a study was done by the Millikin University, from spring 2011 to spring 2014. They examined how feeding wild birds influences the health of individual birds at forested sites in central Illinois.

Generally, the individual health of birds improved with supplemental feeding, reduced stress and more rapid feather growth. The difference among sites was not present 10 months after feeders were removed, suggesting that the impact on health was indeed related to supplemental feeding. One negative effect was the spread of disease from dirty feeders. They found in general, birds that had access to supplemental food were in better physiological condition. Moreover, the negative effects could be mitigated by hobbyists cleaning feeders.

In 2011, 52.8 million Americans over the age of 16 years fed birds and other wildlife around their homes and spent over $5 billion on bird food, feeders, houses, baths and other accessories according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Habitat alteration and destruction undoubtedly impose the greatest human impacts on bird populations, and many species of birds are in decline worldwide. A little supplemental food can help birds establish nests earlier, have better rates of nestling survival and fledgling success.

Feeders also allow breeding females to spend less time searching for food and more time selecting better nesting sites and constructing higher quality nests. The adults will also have more time available for protecting their nest, eggs and young from predators.

When abundant food is accessible to parent birds it means that more food is provided to their chicks. Studies have shown that this extra nutrition reduces aggression among nest siblings and increases their rate of growth. So go ahead and feed the birds and enjoy a hobby that also helps Mother Nature.

Related Articles:
Meeting Your Birds' Nesting Needs http://meeting-your-birds-nesting-needs.html
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://what-seeds-do-wild-birds-eat.html
When should I feed the birds? http://feeding-year-round.html
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh  

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