I took the feeders down last spring after it had warmed a bit. I worried that summer feeding, above all, might interfere with the parents teaching their fledglings to find food as in “Why go elsewhere when there’s plenty of good protein in good flying range?”
I, with nothing but whim or intuition, decided I’d wait until the first snow fell before putting the feeders back up. Fall, according to a few sources, is when natural food is most plentiful. Recently I ran across a good article describing the pros and cons of feeling birds. One of the chief reasons to not feed is that it requires careful attention to cleaning and disinfection schedules of the feeders something at which I failed in the past and have ever since worried about what damage my ignorance might have caused. Because birds congregate unnaturally at feeders infection and disease spreads easily from one species or another. I feel the commitment to cleaning is worthy of some serious thought and follow through.
The price of bird seed and it’s availability has now become an issue as well. This is not a time anyone wants to be seriously feeding squirrels yet they need to make it through winter as well. But their preprogramed instinct to hoard causes a nasty supply chain issue of its own and investing in the equipment and efforts needed to thwart these super smart critters is a steep uphill climb.
Last year, tired of the cleaning battle with the various tube feeders, I went to a simple hanging platform and a suet block. Platforms are easier to empty and clean and most species seem to do okay with them. Squirrels love them of course.
Out here by the ocean I do not get the beautiful species people love to watch such as the Bluebirds or Purple Finches and most days the much more common species like the House Sparrows, an occasional Cardinal or Tufted Titmouse, Nuthatch or Chickadee show up. The Goldfinches thinned out and didn’t seem to be around in the winter as much as they once were despite my maintaining a specifically designed Finch Feeder. That is going to be replaced this winter with a second, smaller hanging platform with “alternative” seeds such as millet and safflower which are not usually liked by squirrels.
All bird experts suggest planting native plant species as a far more natural way of providing food rather than supplemental bird feeders. However this good idea is not possible if you are a renter or live in a populated area without backyards. They also suggest not mowing which seems ridiculous in terms of encouraging threatening tick populations, dangerous to dogs and humans both.
To feed or not to feed seems to come down to the pleasure of watching wildlife up close and the learning such observations bring. Once, when winter sports activities were great fun, there didn’t seem to be thoughts of staying entertained during the cold months but now such opportunities provide a way to make it to Spring.
Do you feed the birds? What compromises do you make?
2 thoughts on “#176 Feeding Birds”
Sadly, I had both to take down the bird feeder and empty the birdbath this summer due to an Audubon Society alert about a strange bird illness that seemed to be spreading from lower New England to the mid-Atlantic. But the birds persist. Lucky for me, winter is crow-roosting season around here, so thousands of brilliant corvids are making their eloquent racket as they fly over the city every afternoon.
I counted 7 crow family members this morning who showed up early as a snowstorm covered everything overnight. I put a supply of black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts on the concrete porch and soon the crows, squirrels, mourning doves, and sparrows took their turn finding what suited them best. The finches and titmice prefer to dine from the hanging platforms. There was a flurry of busy birds getting enough protein for their needs. At one point I looked up and saw the blur of much larger wings moving quickly away. Apparently the Cooper’s hawk also got fed although it surprised me that it would come into such a confined space. It’s sobering that “feeding the birds” also means “feeding the birds birds”.