re: IT IS imperative we feed wild animals

Subject: re: IT IS imperative we feed wild animals
From: "James Colton" <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 14:29:37 +1000
I am new to this discussion board and have followed the discussion on feeding wild birds, my first gut reaction was to STAY AWAY FROM THIS ONE! But after Penn Gwynne's last post I can't bottle it in any longer:

I'm sorry Penn but I disagree that the issue is "NOT whether we should or should not feed them". Imperative, really?

You know of 85 yr old WILD Galahs that live that long on cuttlefish dietary supplement?. How so? Did you band the bird or mark it in some other way to know it is the same individual?. Are you really older than 85 to have followed the fate of those birds?

Less than 4% of species become dependent you say. Nice statistic but where did you get it? How do you know it is 4%? Not one of them become fully dependent? - how do you know this?, where is your evidence?

While the diet of lorikeets may not be restricted to nectar entirely, they DO NOT eat seeds, and therefore feeding them SEEDS is a highly artificial diet. You ASSUME their tongue bristles will grow back and if they need to can happily switch back to a diet of nectar. Tongues are nothing like feathers, furs or scales when they are worn down it represents a degradation of the tissue, I strongly doubt that the original structure will 'grow back' to a point where it is fully functional again, depending on the amount of damage the tongue is likely to remain in the same condition or deteriorate further. The 'bristles' are nothing like the bristles found on other parts of the body of animals (e.g. rictal bristles, bristles around the muzzles of mammals) they are a TOTALLY DIFFERENT structure, for starters they are not shed and replaced like the other type of bristles, they are named so because they LOOK LIKE bristles, BUT THEY AREN'T. Yes, like any other tissue of the body they can cope with a mild amount of abrasion (like our skin heals after minor cuts) and repair themselves, but it is a different story when the tissue has experienced substantial abrasion (as lorikeets do when eating seeds). There is no place for assumptions when you have the life of an animal at stake! It is liking saying 'she-ll be right mate' or 'no probs'. So, with lorikeets with worn down tongues - they do become entirely dependent on humans - so now we have at least one species of your 4% that DO ACTUALLY become entirely dependent!.

And sunflower seeds have a VERY HIGH lipid content (hence why we use them to obtain sunflower oil) - the wild diet of many of the birds sunflower is fed to do not have a diet high in lipids. Many captive parrots love sunflower seed (it is often a motivational tool to train captive parrots), however, many humans love potato chips and hamburgers, but those foods aren't very good for us. If you HAVE to feed wild birds (and I don't agree that you HAVE to) then feed them food that is similar to their wild diet for god's sake (or more correctly, for their sake!).

Feeding biscuits to young birds IS ENTIRELY different to feeding it to adult birds. The nutritional requirements of young birds is quite different from that of adult birds. Biscuits may be fine as a SHORT-TERM dietary item, but this DOESN'T NECESSARILY equate to being ok for the longer-term. Once again, there is no place for ASSUMPTIONS! It is better to look at the species natural diet, break it down and replicate it as best you can if you HAVE to feed them (this is one of the main messages Marian was pushing). You erroneously write of doing this for Kookaburras, you feed them fish after all they are Kingfishers. But, they rarely consume fish. The Kingfishers of the world can be broadly classed into two groups - one that feeds predominantly on fish or other animals from the water, and the other that predominantly feed on animals found in a terrestrial environment (insects, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, birds, arthropods, molluscs, annelids etc etc), with a few species that are intermediate. Guess which group the Kookaburra belongs to! Furthermore, even if they DID EAT FISH REGULARLY, cooked meat is different from raw meat - why? because we apply a lot of heat to the tissue and in doing so change the chemical structure of the tisue - meat is predomiantly protein, heat is one of the agents that can denature protein (hence why an egg on a frying pan turns white - the protein in the albumen has undergone a chemical change with the heat acting as the catalyst - you can't renature the protein). Do animals eat cooked meat - NO!.

Lastly. How many of our native species benefit from wild feed supplements in the average feeder's garden? I suspect from watching various TV programs showing birds feeding at feed trays that these are species that are common in suburbia or semi-suburbia (rosellas, galahs, turtle-doves, crested pigeons, red wattlebirds, noisy miners, red-browed finches, pied currawongs, magpies, kookaburras) - species that show a high tolerance for large scale landscape change, and in fact some of them benefit from the change in the environment (e.g. Noisy Miners were once a rare bird in Sydney - not any more!. Pied Currawongs used to be regular altitudinal migrants in Sydney - leaving for about half the year - not so any more they are permanent breeding residents that are extremely common. A similar story exists for Laughing Kookaburra, a species that favours more open habitats. In Sydney at least the story is also true of Galahs and Crested Pigeons - once rare visitors now common garden variety birds).

Providing sources of nectar food for our 'bird friends' in our garden by planting prolific flowering natives (e.g. grevilleas) has provided food MAINLY for Noisy Miners and Red Wattlebirds (Yes, some other species do get the odd opportunity to feed from these plants - it all depends on where they are planted, but in general most of these plants provide nectar for these two large aggressive honeyeaters, and even if lots of other birds feed from them these plants provide a regular source of food for the honeyeaters and thus encourage their expansion). For Noisy Miners at least (and probably Red Wattlebirds) their presence is typically associated with a decrease in bird species diversity AND species richness (so less species and less of the less species) - what a wonderful outcome for conservation, we ACTUALLY ASSIST the demise of some species through encouraging others, despite the best of peoples intentions!. AND THIS IS ONE OF MY MAJOR ISSUES WITH FEEDING WILD ANIMALS - what effect does the feeding of some species (because NOT ALL feed from feeders!) have on the other species? This is a question of ecology. So, you may see birds all being happy in the garden but what happens when they move back out into remnant patches of native or near so vegetation? Feeding miners in your garden helps reduce the number of other natives in the home range of that colony. Helping the parrots mutliply means that when they go out to look for the scarce hollows to breed in they compete with species that don't benefit from feeding (so the lorikeets, which Don Burke correctly stated have undergone a POPULATION EXPLOSION in Sydney, compete with other parrots and wildlife for hollows - and anyone who knows anything about rainbow lorikeets knows they are very aggressive and successful competitors - Yes, Don, we have certainly achieved something to be proud of by assisting the colonisation of Sydney by Rainbow Lorikeets, NOT!).

So, is feeding helping or hindering our struggling urban wildlife? A question that is by no means resolved, but a very important question.

I must say Penn, even though I don't condone the feeding of wild animals I find Marian's arguments and writing MUCH more convincing than yours. For example many animals congregating at a very localised food supply for extended and repeated visits does not occur very often in the 'wild', yet it does at feeding trays - this does foster the transfer of disease both through contact with the food (which, can be minimised with a good feeding regime by the human feeder) BUT ALSO THROUGH CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!!! (which, no matter how clean or fastidious the human is this cannot be controlled for!) - Furthermore, sick animals have a greater need for food supplements and feeders are likely to be more attractive to them!.

I know feeding wild animals in your backyard appeals to many and gives those that do it a warm feeling inside that in some little way they are helping nature in a time when she needs it most. But despite the best intentions those same people have rarely considered the issue to the depth that it deserves.

Hot chart ringtones and polyphonics. Go to

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU