To feed or not to feed? That is the question

The Feather Factor with Sherry Lidstone

A Steller’s Jay can be a regular visitor to a backyard feeder.

A Steller’s Jay can be a regular visitor to a backyard feeder.

Tuesday afternoon I caught B.C.’s premier birder/biologist Dick Cannings interview on CBC’s Radio program “Here and Now”. He is always open to sharing his knowledge and is one of my ‘go to’ experts if I need answers.

One statement that stuck with me was that “birds will not starve if we don’t feed them”. He went on to say that feeding birds was more for our own enjoyment than a necessity for the birds themselves.

So the decision to feed is a personal choice. Myself, I choose to feed and am thoroughly enjoying the 35 plus species visiting my feeders.

I know some birders oppose all feeding, claiming this causes a bird’s dependence on us.

I personally see nothing harmful with helping our frosty, feathered, friends through our harsh winters, especially in times of natural food shortages.

Severe winter storms can kill up to 30 per cent of the bird populations, but with our help, that number can be greatly reduced. Properly handled feeding can ensure a larger number will survive while enriching our own encounters with wildlife.

Backyard bird feeding is so prevalent throughout North America that this form of support in my opinion should not be abandoned.

Birding is no longer just a recreational activity that appeals to the free spirit in us all.

It is the single, largest practice of unorganized and unregulated wildlife management in the world. (author unknown)

Should you feed?

• Can you tend your feeder almost every day?

• Can you ensure you will leave enough food when you are away?

• Can you keep your feeders and birdbaths clean on a regular basis?

If you said no to any of these, then you probably shouldn’t put up a feeder.

For those that do want to feed the birds, there are a few important rules to follow….

• Do not feed excessively. Remember you are only supplementing their natural diet, not giving them an entire day’s food. Feed them smaller amounts throughout the day.

• Use several smaller feeders to avoid over crowding and the spread of disease.

• Never feed moldy seed. Store it in a dry, covered container.

• Remove excess seed and debris from under the feeder as often as possible.

• Keep your feeders clean! Every two weeks or so, scrub your feeders with one part bleach to nine parts water. Clean and replace hummingbird food every three days (more on hummingbirds next week).

• Place your feeders out of reach of pets but where you have the best view.  They should not be in full sun or full shade or where wind blows continually. Feeders placed near the cover of trees and shrubs will attract more visitors and offer protection from predators.

• Stop feeding immediately if you notice sick birds at your feeder. Wait at least one week before you put the ‘cleaned’ feeders back up and encourage friends and neighbours to do the same.

• Sit back and enjoy Mother Nature’s show!

By now many birds are busy nesting and I would very much appreciate any reports of active nests in your area. Questions and sightings are also welcomed and encouraged.

On a final note, I have created a new Facebook group for British Columbia Birds, please feel free to join:

Until next time…Happy birding!



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