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Why Should We Feed Wild Birds?

26 10:41:09

The US Fish & Wildlife Service reports that approximately 54 million people in the US feed wild birds. Feeding the birds has become the second most popular 損assive?hobby in our country. Gardening ranks as number one, and I have to wonder what kind of gardening they studied, as I would never have termed that hobby 損assive.?

There are some people who think that putting out food for the birds is wrong, and they cite various reasons, some of which may be valid. However, most wildlife organizations not only consider that feeding the birds is alright, they also sell both bird seed and bird feeders.

Certainly, the joy of watching wild birds at close quarters is more than enough reason to put out bird feeders. We like birds and enjoy having them around. We like to hear their songs through our open windows on a spring or summer day, and their vibrant colors brighten up a winter day when much of our landscape can look pretty bleak.

It is interesting, and educational, to see wild birds interact as they feed and bathe in your yard. It抯 also beneficial for them. In many areas, birds have lost their natural habitat and their traditional sources of food have become truly sparse. In addition, they often must compete for available food with birds such as house sparrows and starlings which are not native to North America. Your feeders can make a difference and may help them survive.

Another important reason is that wild birds are bug-eating machines. The birds you attract to your feeders and garden will also seek out mosquitoes, caterpillars, slugs and snails to dine on. Those much-maligned starlings wandering over your lawn will eat Japanese beetle larvae and also go after gypsy moth larvae, which most native birds scorn. A Baltimore oriole can eat seventeen hairy caterpillars a minute, and a pair of flickers can polish off five thousand ants as an appetizer. Hummingbirds have the highest relative food consumption of any bird and consume half their body weight (about two ounces) in food every day, most of that being soft-bodied insects (mosquitoes!) and spiders.

Feeding the birds is a hobby you can start at any time of the year with very little trouble. Winter is the obvious time, as their natural food supplies are low. But different species will visit your feeders during their annual spring and fall migrations, as well as during the nesting season. I get a kick out of the wren that sits on the bar at the feeder and throws seeds, one after another, onto the ground. I don抰 know what she抯 looking for ?maybe a bug. The young cardinals and towhees sit on a branch overhanging the feeder, shivering and cheeping plaintively until their father flies up and stuffs regurgitated seeds into their open beaks.

Providing food for the birds doesn抰 just mean having bird feeders. You can create a bird-friendly environment in many ways. Deciduous and evergreen trees provide both seeds and shelter, as do shrubs and ornamental grasses for ground birds. Many birds have an appetite for fresh fruit, so bushes, weeds and trees that have berries are especially tempting. Flowers attract insects and can be left to go to seed which provides food during the winter.

The final argument for feeding the birds? Maybe we owe them. It抯 very true that extinction of the species occurs naturally, but man抯 interference has accelerated the rates to an alarming degree as our population has expanded and their natural habitat has been decimated. Surely, it抯 only fair that we help them out by making our yards more welcoming to them.