An interesting read - Why do we feed wild animals?

To: Denise Goodfellow <>, Janine Duffy <>
Subject: An interesting read - Why do we feed wild animals?
From: Greg and Val Clancy <>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2016 07:14:55 +0000
Hi Denise and Janine,

I agree that there is a great deal of ignorance of birds (and other aspects
of the natural world) throughout the Australian population but to blame it
on the fact that feeding wildlife is discouraged in Australia is drawing a
long bow.  There are a multitude of potential reasons, one being the desire
by many to 'dumb down'.  Many people do not want to broaden their minds and
learn anything, let alone about 'boring' birds and our consumer lifestyle
doesn't leave any time or thought to the natural world.  Despite this as
people age a number do find an interest in birds and, as the average age of
members of bird societies will tell you, grey nomads are finding the joy of
bird watching appealing. There is also more interest in birds and other
wildlife in the community than is obvious on the surface.  I have been
involved in environmental education for a long time and I am always
encouraged at the level of interest and excitement in the natural world from
people of all ages.

I never said that we should discourage people who feed birds from joining
Birdlife Australia or other bird organisations.  If people have an interest
in birds then that should be encouraged.  Maybe if they join, and I am sure
that many would already be members, they could learn about the problems of
wildlife feeding and make up their own minds as to whether to continue or
not.  I agree that people need a connection but this can be achieved by
providing natural habitat and a bird bath.


Dr Greg. P. Clancy
Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide
| PO Box 63 Coutts Crossing NSW 2460
| 02 6649 3153  | 0429 601 960

-----Original Message-----
From: Denise Goodfellow
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2016 9:03 AM
To: Janine Duffy
Cc: birding-aus
Subject: An interesting read - Why do we feed wild

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,

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 <>

> 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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