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Do feeders do more harm or good?

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Old Sunday 15th May 2005, 19:10   #1
cavan wood
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Do feeders do more harm or good?

In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of threads about blackbirds, robins, and other garden birds in the UK raising young to have them killed by cats, magpies, crows, and teens with air rifles.

This got me to wondering if feeding birds in city/suburban yards encourages them to nest in otherwise poor nesting sites. If we weren't feeding them, would they seek better habitat where they would be better hidden and less exposed to the opportunist feeders common in developed areas?

Clearly many offspring die in the most natural of habitats, hence the large number of eggs and broods to compensate. Yet, I wonder if despite the obvious benefit to birds from an energy budget point of view, do we inflict an even higher than normal mortality rate on the birds that we attract to our gardens?

I have read absolutely nothing on this topic, so if anyone has any literature or opinions along this theme, I would be quite interested in hearing it.
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Old Sunday 15th May 2005, 22:07   #2
egret3
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I am in the Metro.. see you are
Peterborough way and wonder
on this topic as well

When my parents moved, they jst
left the birds.. had little houses
up and .. I didnt even want to ask
or think.. then what.. they say
you should not do that..

See who else answers here..

Lots of lovely birding up your area
I like Burleigh Falls.. see the herons up there
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Old Sunday 15th May 2005, 22:14   #3
snapper
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cavan wood
In the past couple of weeks there have been a number of threads about blackbirds, robins, and other garden birds in the UK raising young to have them killed by cats, magpies, crows, and teens with air rifles.

This got me to wondering if feeding birds in city/suburban yards encourages them to nest in otherwise poor nesting sites. If we weren't feeding them, would they seek better habitat where they would be better hidden and less exposed to the opportunist feeders common in developed areas?

Clearly many offspring die in the most natural of habitats, hence the large number of eggs and broods to compensate. Yet, I wonder if despite the obvious benefit to birds from an energy budget point of view, do we inflict an even higher than normal mortality rate on the birds that we attract to our gardens?

I have read absolutely nothing on this topic, so if anyone has any literature or opinions along this theme, I would be quite interested in hearing it.
Hi caven wood just to give one example, where would house sparrows have built their nests before we built houses we take away their natural habitat & food resources with housing, farming & motorways they can not cope on their own even if we do not put the food out for them. We say they have moved in to urban places this is not true we have taken over there habitat & they are adapting to our way of life with a little help from us, if we did not put food out for them they would still pick up the crisps from school playgrounds scraps from Mc Donalds & any other discarded food from humans the RSBP reckon we need to feed the birds all year round just for there survival, bird numbers have only gone up with the help of human intervention.

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Old Sunday 15th May 2005, 23:35   #4
cavan wood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snapper
Hi caven wood just to give one example, where would house sparrows have built their nests before we built houses we take away their natural habitat & food resources with housing, farming & motorways they can not cope on their own even if we do not put the food out for them. We say they have moved in to urban places this is not true we have taken over there habitat & they are adapting to our way of life with a little help from us, if we did not put food out for them they would still pick up the crisps from school playgrounds scraps from Mc Donalds & any other discarded food from humans the RSBP reckon we need to feed the birds all year round just for there survival, bird numbers have only gone up with the help of human intervention.

Regards
Snapper

Yes I would agree that most birds that come to feeders do better as a result of us feeding them (inlcuding the predators). I don't suggest that we are pulling them out of preferred habitats, so therefore anything that survives in our gardens is an addition to the population. I guess what I'm really wondering is, do garden nesting birds have greater or lesser nesting success than their country cousins?

Scott
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 11:08   #5
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There was a recent study by the BTO about blue tits in the urban environment verses the more natural woodland.

Those in the natural woodland had more chicks than in the urban (as more caterpillars and insects available). However, in winter what chicks there were survived better in the urban environment due to us providing food.

I don't believe we pull them out of their natural environment but provide for those living near us. We may also supplement the diet of some birds travelling past if we live near woodland or farmland.
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 12:34   #6
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I normally close my feeder down from the end of May till beginning the of October because the birds stop coming. The local area is a mix of town and surrounding villages, farmland and woodland. The Blue tits come in the autumn through to spring from the nearby woodland. Whereas the Long Tailed Tit only appear during the cold spells in winter. I noticed at the weekend Long Tailed Tits were doing well with their young in the local woodland. Which makes me feel that my money was well spent on feed.

Where people try to introduce birds into an area and not insure a supply of food could also be a problem. I also have Greater Spotted Woodpeckers visit my nut feeder on a daily basis during this period. I notice that large nesting boxes have been attached to many trees in the woodland, by whom I don't know. Compared to a local RSPB site at Tudley Woods who have made efforts to incourage insect life such as ant hills and fallen logs for insect to live on the decaying wood.


Robert

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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 12:52   #7
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I only feed in the coldest months, Nov to Feb, early March if cold.
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 13:02   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tero
I only feed in the coldest months, Nov to Feb, early March if cold.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to adopt this method of feeding as well but because of bear threats, not problems with birds or anything. We had 3 bears in the neighbourhood last summer so I don't want to push my luck. Since bears are now out of hibernation, my feeders will be coming down next time they are empty, likely later this week. :(

I figure if I feed from October to May, that should be fine. The birds will have plenty of natural food sources in the five months I don't have feeders out. In the meantime, I can help them through the roughest times of the year.
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 13:21   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tammie
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to adopt this method of feeding as well but because of bear threats, not problems with birds or anything. We had 3 bears in the neighbourhood last summer so I don't want to push my luck. Since bears are now out of hibernation, my feeders will be coming down next time they are empty, likely later this week. :(

I figure if I feed from October to May, that should be fine. The birds will have plenty of natural food sources in the five months I don't have feeders out. In the meantime, I can help them through the roughest times of the year.
And I think I have problems with domestic cats!!
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Old Monday 16th May 2005, 18:02   #10
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ROFL!

It's the joy of living up north and having the bush just outside my back fence! :)



Quote:
Originally Posted by David Pedder
And I think I have problems with domestic cats!!
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Old Tuesday 17th May 2005, 00:45   #11
cavan wood
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Some excellent responses. Thanks.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hil5
There was a recent study by the BTO about blue tits in the urban environment verses the more natural woodland.

Those in the natural woodland had more chicks than in the urban (as more caterpillars and insects available). However, in winter what chicks there were survived better in the urban environment due to us providing food.

I don't believe we pull them out of their natural environment but provide for those living near us. We may also supplement the diet of some birds travelling past if we live near woodland or farmland.
This is pretty close to what I had assumed, but it was only assumption. It's nice to hear that there is a least one study to support the notion.

Scott
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Old Tuesday 17th May 2005, 00:50   #12
cavan wood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tammie
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to adopt this method of feeding as well but because of bear threats, not problems with birds or anything. We had 3 bears in the neighbourhood last summer so I don't want to push my luck. Since bears are now out of hibernation, my feeders will be coming down next time they are empty, likely later this week. :(

I figure if I feed from October to May, that should be fine. The birds will have plenty of natural food sources in the five months I don't have feeders out. In the meantime, I can help them through the roughest times of the year.

It would be nice to know if bears dislike safflower as much as grackles do. This being the first time I've fed past April I've been thrilled to see as many as 5 rose-breasted grosbeaks on the feeder at once...and if I hadn't switched to safflower and kept feeding, I wouldn't have seen the white-crowned sparrows either (up to three at once). But, unlike my experiment with grackles, it's probably best to let someone else experiment with bears.

Scott
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Old Tuesday 17th May 2005, 10:48   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tammie
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to adopt this method of feeding as well but because of bear threats.
We have squirrel proof feeders here... but I am sure a bear could tear apart anything.

My feeder is 15 feed above ground level, outside my office window... so the food is safe from squirrels and the birds are safe from cats... could you position a feeder so that a bear could not get to it?

Or is the problem that the food would still attract the bears to your garden?

Bears look so nice and cuddly - but I hear that they can be dangerous.
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Old Tuesday 17th May 2005, 11:02   #14
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a couple years ago I stopped feeding altogether. I had a few tube type feeders and after many flocks of conjuntivitis infected house sparrows began visiting I took them down fearing continued feeding would spread the condition to other birds
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Old Tuesday 17th May 2005, 14:19   #15
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Bears can be extremely dangerous as they are very unpredictable. I learned something new about their behaviour last night too, when I called the bear report hotline:

If a bear approaches you and makes huffing noises or stamps his feet at you, he's signalling you that HE'S scared and just wants to get away and needs you to give him the space to do that.

If he approaches you and he stays silent, he's most dangerous because he's NOT afraid of you.

Personally, I'm terrified of bears and don't trust them one iota!! They are a very large, wild animal after all.

So yes, the problem IS that food of any kind will attract them to the garden and hence, to me, if I'm out there! Hopefully once their wild food sources start growing, I can at least put hummer feeders and suet back out.


Quote:
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Or is the problem that the food would still attract the bears to your garden?

Bears look so nice and cuddly - but I hear that they can be dangerous.
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