An interesting read - Why do we feed wild animals?

To: Janine Duffy <>
Subject: An interesting read - Why do we feed wild animals?
From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2016 22:03:22 +0000
I don’t deal much with mainstream visitors, as Janine does.  But in my 
experience both Europeans and Americans know more and have much more interest 
in their wildlife than Australians.  I’ve written previously about that 
ignorance through my experience as a wildlife advisor for television.

 In 2009 I gave nearly three dozen lectures throughout the US, and met many who 
weren’t birders including business women in Los Angeles, back country farmers 
in Iowa, college and university students in Oaklands, California and elsewhere. 
  I have a wide circle on contacts throughout the UK and Europe (my stories and 
books have been widely used in education there).  But never have I met the 
degree of ignorance about wildlife that I encounter here.

My PhD, admittedly on American birders, found that a major reason why 
respondents watched birds was to feel a special connection with nature.  The 
Audubon does that connection well, running articles that some may find 
cringingly anthropomorphic, like displaying photos of courting birds on 
Valentine’s Day (2013).  Try doing that here; the response to the “extraneous” 
information (e.g. humour, anecdotes, sex) in Birds of Australia’s Top End was 
enough to have it labelled as not being a ‘true birder’s book’ in Australia.  
The response in the US (and the UK) was completely different.

Millions throughout the US have bird feeders.  And where would purple martins 
be without so many Americans providing nesting facilities for them?  
Furthermore such ‘feeder-watchers’, as one of my participants disparagingly 
called such people, may have a wealth of knowledge of the birds in their yards, 
as  Watson (2010)* pointed out.

It’s not enough to treat our wildlife with ‘distant respect’.  People need 
those connections, and so let’s welcome those who feed their backyard birds, 
along with their knowledge.  Then perhaps we can begin to tackle the really big 
problems facing birds and other wildlife in this country.

Watson, G.P. L. (2010). Multiple acts of birding: the education, ethics, and 
ontology of bird watching in Ontario (Unpublished PhD thesis). York University, 
Toronto, Canada

Denise Lawungkurr  Goodfellow
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841
043 8650 835

PhD candidate, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Founding Member: Ecotourism Australia
Nominated by Earthfoot for Condé Nast’s International  Ecotourism Award, 2004.

With every introduction of a plant or animal that goes feral this continent 
becomes a little less unique, a little less Australian.

On 24 Jan 2016, at 7:52 pm, Janine Duffy <> wrote:

> Well said Julian.
> I agree with Greg that a good native garden is a great thing, but I don't 
> agree
> that feeding wild birds should be discouraged.
> I believe that one of the biggest problems facing our birds, and other 
> wildlife,
> is that many Australians don't care whether they live or die. In fact many
> Australians know very little about their native wildlife. I deal with 
> mainstream
> travellers (not birders - ordinary people) from North America, the UK and 
> Europe,
> and I am impressed by their knowledge and understanding of their native birds,
> much of it gained from feeders, and in contrast I am shocked and ashamed at
> Australian's lack of knowledge. I mean, almost every American knows what an
> American Robin is, and a Bald Eagle. But I am constantly asked by Aussies
> whether that bird is a magpie, and every whistling kite and brown falcon seems
> to be a wedge-tailed eagle!!!
> Anything that increases our connection with and understanding of our birds is
> good.
> And where have we got this idea that it is so bad for birds? Yes disease is 
> bad.
> Yes, natural behavior may change. But hell, in a country battling climate
> change, drought, and changing fire regimes that affect millions of hectares 
> this
> is the least of the problems for the birds.
> Back off on the bird feeding community and welcome them instead. A few million
> more members of Birdlife Australia (all the bird feeders out there) all 
> funding
> and lobbying for change in governmental policy would do far more for birds 
> than
> a cessation of feeding.
> Check Darryl Jones article in Australian Birdlife, vol 3, no 2 June 2014 where
> he raises some important points and challenges some myths.
> Janine
> Sent using CloudMagic Email
> []
>  On Sun, Jan 24, 2016 at 2:30 PM, Julian Bielewicz <  
>  > wrote:
> Greetings Greg
> Fay and I, on 7½ acres, have over the past 15 years converted and/or
> improved the property’s natural habitat [e.g. on discovering the occasional
> visit by Glossy Black-Cockatoo we have planted some 50 new Allocasuarina
> littoralis trees [propagated from a neighbour’s mature trees]. We have a
> large dam on the southern boundary of the property and a few years ago paid
> to have a small “duck pond” [which our domestic ducks have never used]
> excavated on the north western boundary. We recently relegated an old
> lion’s claw bathtub to the “Doughnut” [an oval garden planted with roses and
> natives]. To top up this supply we have three pedestal birdbaths in various
> spots around the “front yard”.
> We have two bird tables and often scatter seed in “Café Avian”.
> As an aside, our menagerie consists of a small flock [c20] of free-flying
> domestic pigeons [“Kings”, a table variety], a dozen free-range assorted
> chickens and four ducks.
> In 15 years of close observation [and feeding seed and kitchen scraps] we
> have never observed any signs of disease among the regular domestics or
> wildlife visitors; have never observed any of the domestic birds, let alone
> any of the wild species, fall victim to a raptor or any other avian
> predator. We have noted a Collared Sparrowhawk attempt to take a pigeon but
> it failed and has never been seen since. I will admit to a couple of
> chickens and a duck being taken by a fox- before we fox-proofed the coop.
> While your tale of the Eastern Osprey chicks being so “viciously” attacked
> by the Pied Butcherbirds I would immediately question the use of the emotive
> “vicious”. What exactly is “vicious” in wildlife terms? How do Torresian
> Crow, Pied Currawong, Laughing Kookaburra, etc. mount up in your equation?
> Surely, Pied Butcherbirds taking out fledgling IS nature; the natural
> process. How do you correlate one [the presence of Pied Butcherbird being
> fed by humans] with the other [the taking of Eastern Osprey chick]?
> I can clearly recall, back in our Redcliffe days, a cat taking a Rainbow
> Lorikeet, dashing across the road and tearing up the fenceline between our
> house and the neighboour’s. In the bat of an eyelid, a Pied Butcherbird
> swooped down on fleeting feline, causing it to drop the bird. We retrieved
> the lorikeet and spent the next few days nurturing said patient. It
> survived to fight another day.
> A Brownie point for the Pied Butcherbird!!
> How did the Pied Butcherbirds connect human feed with the need to kill
> fledglings? Did they notice the fledglings during normal foraging
> expeditions? Would they have noticed the fledglings regardless or human
> supplementary feeds?
> Yes, we derive immense satisfaction from feeding the local avifauna but how
> can anyone measure the benefit to birds during spring when they have
> additional mouths to feed or following a heavy, prolonged, rainstorm when
> “normal” food becomes scarer?
> Your assertion that wildlife managed perfectly well before humans started
> artificially feeding them flies in the face of logic and fact. Surely, if
> humans had not initially interfered with the bird’s natural environment [to
> create roads, houses, etc] then birds may well have managed BUT humans have
> interfered and consequently bird habitat ranges have diminished. Feeding
> birds is simply a small recompense for losses inflicted on birds by humans.
> We DO feed wildlife in our garden and we derive a great amount of enjoyment
> having King-Parrots sit on the verandah; Blue-faced Honeyeater and Noisy
> Miner drinking at the bird baths; Common Bronzewing take seed at Café Avian;
> Grey Butcherbird and Laughing Kookaburra eating insects and lizards; both
> Little and Noisy Friarbird feeding on nectar that the local native plants
> provide.
> We totally disagree with your “bottom line” that Fay and I only feed
> wildlife for our own satisfaction and that it has nothing to do with any
> benefit to the birds. Utter claptrap!
> Cheers
> Julian
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