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Springtime Bird Feeding

Posted March 31, 2011 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Do you feed the birds? According to Discovery News, more than 40% of U.S. households and nearly 50% of U.K. households feed wild birds. While it may seem like the right thing to do when several feet of snow cover the ground and freezing temperatures linger for weeks, a pair of new studies finds that springtime feeding may be a disservice to wild birds.

Studies were conducted in England by the University of Birmingham and in Norway by the University of Basel. They compared birds provided with food at feeders with those in a similar area that found their own food. The fed birds:

  • Laid their eggs earlier
  • Incubated the eggs for less time before they hatched
  • Had smaller clutches (laid fewer eggs)
  • Had a reduced percentage of eggs hatch (one of two types of birds showed this)
  • Delayed morning chorus by 20 minutes (in Norway)

Those involved with the study think that the fed birds may be spending more time defending the territory surrounding the feeders. In the case of the delayed singing, it could be that they are distracted by other birds feeding in their territory. James Reynolds, the main researcher, says that further study is still needed.

Other resources suggest that it's still okay to feed birds in the spring. They say that some species may be migrating through your area and are still traveling to reach their breeding grounds. Others advocate that parents have high energy requirements when they are feeding their young.

Resources:

http://news.discovery.com/animals/bird-feeders-breeding-110125.html#mkcpgn=rssnws1

http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/article/929056--does-feeding-birds-affect-breeding-yes-says-one-scientist

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/faq/season/spring/document_view

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#1

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

03/31/2011 10:48 AM

I haven't put up a bird feeder in the last few years, but in years past I always had a few seed feeders out.

I really had to keep on top of them, otherwise they became cat feeders.

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#2

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

03/31/2011 11:15 PM

I try not to always have food in the feeders, but to keep them full most of the time. My reasoning is that I do not want the birds to become too dependent on them. It also tends to deter the blackbird flocks from taking over.

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#3

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 7:18 AM

I don't and never have fed birds or anything else in the wild, not even hummingbird feeders for just the reasons pointed out. I've always thought that it would mess up their natural foraging instincts. I still have lots of birds around though.

One the other hand, I do have some sparrows that are brave enough to steal dry cat food from my cat's bowl on the front porch. I think that's acceptable, because I'm pretty sure they are aware of the peril they are placing themselves in to get a bite of food. They could easily become part of the food chain.

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#4

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 7:43 AM

I am sceptical about the findings.

I think that it is more important to put out the CORRECT type of foods and not to put stuff out that might harm say the chicks during breeding times......

I will wait and see what the final results are before possibly taking any further action.....

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#5

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 8:20 AM

I usual do my feeding in late winter early spring and again in late fall early winter to catch the migrators. Usually doing that period of time food is in short supply. So I put out food that is high in fat and protein. Once a week I put it out, it lasts until I don't see any more warblers around.

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#6

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 11:19 AM

This news is not particularly new or surprising. Obviously putting out food for birds (in or out of season) will change the way they behave, reproduce, etc. But since we've already plowed under so much of their natural habitat, and engineered so much of the world to suit our human purposes, these 'wild' birds are not really living the life that nature equipped them for. Maybe people feeding birds is the new 'normal'.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 11:32 AM

Excellent point!

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

04/01/2011 8:16 PM

Yes I agree, GA

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#9

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

10/27/2011 10:33 PM

Hello.I have fed birds with old bread and scraps for years but lately may mind is seeing a great change in bird behavior in the northeast of the country.For the first time that I can remember they are eating more and more crops .The grape crop were I live was being eaten every day once they were ripe .Just about every bird spieces were gulity of the picking and ruining of the crop.None of the devices to chace them away did anything at all. I belive that there are something happening to their envoiment to make this change.Then it was a really craze weather all over the country this year.Hope things are better in 2012 bill willy

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

10/28/2011 12:36 AM

I have a thornless blackberry and grape "cage" of chicken wire to keep birds out. Even so, i have Robins who have found ways in, and I have to catch them and evict them. The reason I built the cage was because I saw sparrows eyeing my blackberries and tried to beat them to it. Not worth the trouble or expense, except in the long run, but I was determined to protect my berries and grapes.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: Springtime Bird Feeding

10/28/2011 12:52 PM

Here the farmers drape nets over the trees and bushes, or they make "avenues" of nets....I would have said that it's "normal business" that the birds go for the fruit.......

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