Birdfeeders – A Mixed Blessing

A birdfeeder can be a great addition to any backyard. Most regions are host to many species of birds, and their plumage and behaviour can be a joy to even the most casual observer. Attention to placement and the right feed can bring hundreds of birds to your feeder annually.

However, in recent years there has arisen a debate over how feeders affect the bird population. Many ornithologists have long maintained that constant feeding can cause dependency. If many feeders in an area contain the same food, population density of certain species can spike, altering the ecosystem for other varieties of birds.

Another point to consider is that birdfeeders placed close to a house pose several hazards to our feathered friends. Millions of birds are killed every year by flying into windows. Granted, most of those are birds that fly into tall buildings, but many are killed by flying into pictures and patio doors. This is easily prevented by decals of owls or other predators applied to the glass.

One of the greatest risks to birds close to your residence is your family pet. Cats are naturally great bird hunters. You can be serving Filet Mignon in your feeder but if the birds know you have a cat, they’ll stay away.

Weedkillers and fertilizers are also hazardous to birds. Nesting birds run the risk of returning to the nest after exposure and introducing these poisonous compounds to their chicks.

Although they are not a risk to the birds, squirrels are quite a nuisance around a birdfeeder. They can be quite resourceful in getting to the seeds which are natural feed to them. Don’t put your feeder under a tree, since they’ll jump down on it. There are many anti-squirrel devices such as perches that collapse under the weight of any more than a bird, or barriers on the supporting pole. The squirrel’s desire for your seed is great, though.

If you decide to install a birdfeeder, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you are doing no harm. First, change the seed regularly. Rancid or moldy seed is a health risk easily avoided.

Birds like to poop where they eat, so it is important to keep platforms, perches and the ground around the feeder clean to prevent the spread of Avian diseases.

If you can successfully address the problems that a birdfeeder can present, it certainly can be an attractive addition to your property. Just be prepared to play host to a squirrel or two!