Many people love the idea of bird feeders, but are bird feeders bad for birds?
Bird feeders can advance the spread of avian disease and disrupt the environment exponentially. Since bird feeders negatively influence birds’ quality of life and nature, their use has come into question.
Does this mean that we have to stop using bird feeders? Are there other ways that we can feed birds without compromising their health? How do I feed birds in an environment-friendly way?
Keep reading to find out more.
Should We Stop Bird Feeding?
Feeding birds offers a lot of value to those who want to remain connected with nature. With the rapid advancement of technology, many of us have lost touch with the great outdoors.
Technology is still expanding, pushing some further and further away from Mother Nature.
Knowing the consequences of using bird feeders in nature has made many consider stopping using them altogether. So the main question is: are bird feeders bad for birds, and most importantly, can we continue feeding birds through bird feeders?
The short answer is that though bird feeders are bad for birds, we can continue to use them with the proper precautions.
We can still enjoy and feed our beautiful, native birds without causing any additional harm to them or the environment. It will take a little more planning to reduce the risks, but it is well worth it in the end.
If you are interested in continuing the use of bird feeders and want to make these changes, you can implement a few steps in your feeding schedule that make all the difference.
Making these changes will keep and protect the animals that you enjoy dearly and appreciate observing.
How to Limit the Spread of Avian Diseases
The most significant risk factor for birds in regards to bird feeders is the risk of contracting diseases. Bird feeders that are not routinely cleaned are a breeding ground for these diseases as well as harmful bacteria.
Other factors can increase the spread of these diseases.
For example, having too many bird feeders and not installing them with the proper food can jeopardize their health just as much, if not more. Here are a few simple actions that you can take to keep the habitat in your backyard happy and healthy.
Clean Your Bird Feeder
Using the proper cleaning techniques will minimize other birds’ exposure to diseases that are dwindling their population rapidly.
BirdLife International reports that at least 40% of 10,000 species of birds are declining aggressively. This statistic can come from several factors, but it is primarily related to the disease epidemic among birds and bird feeders that they visit.
Stephen Kress from Project Puffin states the best tactics for properly cleaning a bird feeder is by scrubbing and using 10 % non-chlorinated bleach.
Your bird feeder needs cleaning twice a year, at the least. It is a good idea to clean bird feeders in-between seasons as well. Another factor in protecting your birds is minimizing the number of feeders you have displayed for them.
Limiting the Number of Feeders
Doubling the number of bird feeders you have may sound like a good thing at first. One might think that it will double the number of birds that get fed. While this is true, it also doubles the number of diseases passed around amongst birds.
Reducing your bird feeders by half will produce inverse results. You will be feeding many birds, but you will be minimizing their risk of disease, which will help them live longer, happier, and healthier lives.
A large number of bird feeders can also attract other birds not related to that environment. Introducing and attracting another bird species into a different environment can disrupt the natural flow within that habitat.
Bird species that are not local to your native habitat and belong in another biome increase the competition for native birds, disrupting the current ecosystem’s natural flow. In the long run, this issue is detrimental to other organisms within the same ecosystem after a time because everything else within that local ecosystem will have to shift.
This makes it harder for the native birds to survive and flourish within their local regions. It can also upset other organisms within the same biome.
Several bird feeders in your yard act as a breeding ground for pathogens and increase the spread of different bird diseases. Having too many feeders only increases your workload in regards to cleaning. It is much easier to clean two bird feeders instead of cleaning 5-6 bird feeders.
Select Better Quality Food
Selecting different types of bird food can also attract other invasive bird species. As mentioned before, this factor can contribute to endangering and limiting the number of native birds in their habitat. This step requires extensive research for your area and native birds.
When conducting your research, look for what are some favorites among the native birds in your area. As a general rule, what’s natural and occurs naturally in the environment is best. Also, look into feeders that they prefer and where the best place to hang them is.
You should never feed birds any variation of human food. The quality of food you give your birds can negatively impact them and promote avian disease spread because it can further lead to contamination.
Human food also has little to no nutritional value for them, which can promote unhealthy conditions and illnesses. Cracked corn and oats are as far as you should go with on-hand foods and should be given in moderation, of course.
Avoid Altering Migration Patterns
Migration is a significant asset to a bird’s life. It prevents them from overpopulating certain areas and passing diseases to one another. Bird feeding shows a solid correlation to behavioral changes in birds’ migration patterns and feeding habits.
Severe changes like these are detrimental to all organisms’ natural ecosystem and wellness. As expressed before, overpopulation of certain birds promotes diseases that they usually can fight against. Due to the severity of the spread, it can intensify their symptoms and cause even more harm.
To avoid the negative impact, the best thing you can do is keep your feeders clean and in certain areas.
This helps significantly because birds from different species behave differently, and it can be challenging to cater to their various behaviors. Going back to basics and implementing things like cleaning and placing a small number of bird feeders in your area helps tremendously.
Another concern that breaks down birds’ populations, and is even a concern among bird enthusiasts, is the threat of predators.
You may see your backyard as a bird sanctuary and even try your best to make it so, but it can also be a hunting terrain for raptor species and outdoor cats.
Raptors are birds like owls, hawks, and eagles. These larger birds are carnivores and see small songbirds as prey. Although some may argue that this is just a natural cycle among wildlife, it can still be a daunting concept.
You can either accept this as a natural part of life or switch your bird feeder’s location so that they will be in far safer areas for your local birds. Sites that are less dense with brush or trees can be ideal. This way, the birds will be more likely to see predators and escape with ease.
Another solution can be taking a closer look at the placement of your bird feeders in your yard. If the predators putting your birds at risk are cats, then that is a more straightforward problem.
If your cats are the ones that are causing the problem, keep them inside during the daytime and afternoon. You can let them out in the evenings as most small birds are not nocturnal and are less likely to be targeted then.
Small birds that we enjoy seeing have to flee quickly to avoid predators. They often find themselves knocking into windows, mistaking them for open areas in the sky or a place to hide.
Window collision can happen for many reasons, but a window’s glare is the primary catalyst to this issue.
Several birds are prone to injury due to these collisions. Some of their injuries can be life-threatening or even lead to death. To avoid these occurrences, here are a few things that you can add to avoid this issue altogether.
- Use window decals to draw birds away
- Block the reflection of your window
- Utilize CollidEscape on your windows. It allows enough light inside your home while also reducing the external glare on the outside.
- Use ornaments on the outside of your window to work as a barrier.
For more ideas on preventing window collisions from happening, visit EarthEasy for a shortlist of easy steps you can take to prevent injuries due to windows.
The Main Takeaway
Bird feeders have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. We can now see the long-term effects that they can have on nature and bird populations. Our well-intended efforts to stay connected with birds have come at a great cost to their health and safety.
To protect bird wildlife and reduce their risks of disease and infection, clean your bird feeders regularly. On average, you should clean your bird feeder twice a year, but for optimum cleanliness, clean your bird feeder during every season change.
Ensuring that your bird feeders are extra clean will cut down on the spread of avian diseases passed between the birds. Another factor for limiting illness among birds is to limit the number of bird feeders in your yard.
Once you can eradicate any potential reasoning for disease epidemics, take a look at your surroundings and take note of ways to make your yard safer for the birds. That way, they can access the bird feeders without putting themselves at risk.
Pay attention to the predators nearby and see if there is a way that you can move your bird feeders into safer locations where they have a complete view of your yard.
This way, they can leave faster if they notice a predator stalking them. If you have outdoor cats, limit their time outside, so they will not jeopardize the safety of your birds.
You can also reduce the glare on your window outside to lessen the chances of window collisions. Once you have completed these essential steps, you can consider the likeliness that your bird feeder isn’t as bad for birds as one may have previously thought.
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