Feeding wild birds

To: "Carla Jackett" <>
Subject: Feeding wild birds
From: Goodfellow <>
Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 07:07:29 +0000
Hi Carla

Friends of mine in Pine Creek (200 kms south of Darwin) feed birds 
putting out copious amounts of seed and nectar mix.  The local galah and 
Rainbow Lorikeet population has increased greatly, I suspect because of 
this feeding.

However given the increase in these species brought about by the 
establishment of mango plantations and grain crops I doubt whether my 
friends have made much impact through their actions.  I should imagine 
that a crash in the market for such crops would bring about a much more 
devastating effect than my friends ceasing to feed birds.

However in the confines of a city such as Sydney or Melbourne the effect 
of artificial feeding may be more noticeable.  Apart from increased 
competition and diseases brought about by poor diet the feeding of 
predatory or introduced birds may have a marked increase on local 
avifauna by increasing predation and the risk of disease.

I live in Darwin, and feed birds, but apart from a slight increase in the 
number of Bar-shouldered Doves in the vicinity have noticed no related 
change in the local avifauna.  As the doves are quite aggressive we only 
put out small amounts of small seed.  Our yard is overgrown with native 
trees (it's like a jungle) with an overgrown grassy verge so it's very 
attractive to birds anyway.

Feeding birds gives people intimate contact with native wildlife, o 
contact they're largely denied otherwise.  As a bird guide of some twenty 
year's experience (mainly for Americans) I've seen just how important 
that contact can be, especially for older, somewhat isolated folks.  Tour 
guides up here realise that too, and to give visitors that contact  feed 
wild sea-eagles and other birds of prey, goannas or crocodiles in places 
utlised by other visitors.  

Consequently individual animals begin to associate people with food.  
Visitors have been badly scratched by kite or harrassed by large goannas 
(including my clients). There was a recent complaint when a dinghy was 
attacked after the operator had inadvertently come between a 5 m. 
crocodile and the food left for it on the bank by a tour guide. 

As far as I know nothing is being done about these issues except in the 
case of the goannas mentioned earlier, and some crocodiles - they were 
removed by park rangers. 

There are other ways of seeing wildlife.  For instance there are guides 
who can stalk a large crocodile with a boat so that visitors can view it 
closely.  And the same can be done with snakes and lizards.  

Tour operators continue to feed animals  (and chase and catch snakes and 
lizards, or in some cases ram crocodiles with boats) because there's a 
market for such behaviour.  I hope that anyone witnessing such behaviour 
complains loud and long.


Denise Goodfellow  (Lawungkurr Maralngurra)

Follow these direct links to my work on the web:
Four Short Stories

Birds of Darwin Sketches

Birding & Natural History in the Far North

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