re: IT IS imperative we feed wild animals

To: James Colton <>,
Subject: re: IT IS imperative we feed wild animals
From: Penn Gwynne <>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2003 00:58:20 -0700 (PDT)
Dear nameless individual could you have the common decency to sign a letter to which you wish for me to respond.

James Colton <> wrote:
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 wi th 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 th e 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
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 wil dlife? 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

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)

Do you Yahoo!?
SBC Yahoo! DSL - Now only $29.95 per month!
<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