Feeding birds

To: Denise Goodfellow <>
Subject: Feeding birds
From: Martin Butterfield <>
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2016 02:28:44 +0000
It has been interesting to watch this correspondence, especially the
contrasts offered between Australians and North Americans regarding
interest in birds.

As a starting point I'll note that just about anytime I stop somewhere with
people around to look at birds I find folk approaching me and wanting to
talk about the birds in the area.  Quite often it's locals offering helpful
insights based on their observations: so they are interested and
knowledgeable.  From a totally unscientific set of memories that is about
the same in SE Australia as it has been in Denver CO, Ottawa Ont and NY NY
(where I have lived for a bit over a year each at various times).

A second point is that much of the bird feeding in Northern America is only
done in Winter, often with an avowed aim of helping the resident species
get through periods in which their food is hard to find.  That was also the
case in the UK where I grew up.  In the warmer bits of the Americas which I
have visited (Arizona in the US and various places in Peru) the feeding was
mainly sugar solution for Hummingbirds and fruit-onna-nail for Tanagers.
 (In each case where this was done in a public space, as well as the target
species it also attracted a fair bunch of birders.)


Martin Butterfield

On 26 January 2016 at 17:18, Denise Goodfellow <>

> Peter
> Years ago a friend in a small NT town began feeding Rainbow Lorikeets and
> soon had hundreds of birds coming in accompanied by galahs and corellas.
> She thought it great for tourism and nothing I said appeared to make any
> difference.
> In both Palmerston and Darwin here in the Top End there are huge roosts of
> lorikeets sustained at least in part by feeders.  I tried to do something
> about them too.  I pointed out the risks to health - the Palmerston birds
> roosted in trees overlooking a food market, even suggesting to Council that
> their public liability insurance may not cover them if people fell ill.   I
> even tried running for Council.  But the response of the good people there
> was that they “loved” the lorikeets and nothing changed.
> When we moved here to Darwin River (about 85 km southwest of Darwin) the
> prevous owners told us they’d been feeding a pair of Radjah Shelducks, a
> family of Pied Butcherbirds, and another family of Blue-winged Kookaburras
> (plus Brush-tailed Possums and Northern Brown Bandicoots) for over 25
> years.  We’ve gradually ceased feeding everything apart from the two ducks,
> and a few finches and doves. Of course in mango season it’s a free for all
> on our three trees.  And when the termites arrive in their millions during
> the Buildup, there’s almost a stampede of wildlife around the house.
> If people are going to feed birds they need to know how to do it safely
> and in ways that aren’t going to impact too much on other wildlife (or
> people for that matter).
> 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 26 Jan 2016, at 2:15 pm, Peter Morgan <> wrote:
> > I was reluctant to get involved in this after Greg Clancy was accused of
> "utter claptrap", and following the recent complaints about spelling and
> grammar, and posting reports, I didn't want to contribute to raising the
> temperature again.
> >
> > However I offer this for what it is worth:
> > Twenty years ago, we moved on to a bush block and I scattered seed over
> a large area.  I did not use a feeder which concentrates the birds.  I
> thought that was the best way to do things.
> > And it was great. We had Butcher Birds, Magpies, Galahs, King Parrots,
> Rainbow Lorikeets, Crows. All the time.
> >
> > After a while, I stopped putting seed out, and most of those birds
> became less frequent visitors.  But what we found was an increase in Blue
> Wrens, Red-browed and Double-barred Finches, various honeyeaters -
> Black-chinned, Brown, Fuscous, White-throated, Scarlet, Little and Noisy
> Friarbirds, the occasional Red-backed Fairy Wren, Eastern Yellow Robin ...
> > Two of the migratory species, Rufous Fantail and Eastern Spinebill and
> the Restless and Leaden Flycatchers might not have have had a connection to
> our stopping feeding and putting out a birdbath. But we started to see them
> when we did do that.
> >
> > So, we're with Greg on that.
> >
> > The other thing that makes us believe that it is better not to feed is
> at our other house.  There were a few Rainbows about, and people liked
> that.  So a lot started throwing out seed and bread.  When the numbers
> increased to huge flocks, the screeching annoyed these same people who then
> wanted "something done".  Eventually they stopped feeding, the numbers have
> reduced, and people are happy.
> >
> > For us, while it might be anecdotal, we are convinced the that
> creating/keeping natural habitat, and providing water, is the best way to
> keep a diversity and more natural mix of birds.  We initially fed the birds
> for those "good" reasons, but ultimately it was mostly for our own
> enjoyment.
> > It is paradoxical that when we stopped putting out seed, our enjoyment
> increased simply because we had a greater diversity of birds.  We still see
> the occasional King Parrot with yellow where it shouldn't be, and we
> rightly or wrongly put that down to others along the lane who do feed large
> numbers on their verandah.
> >
> > While we prefer not to feed birds, we accept that many do it, and that
> there is a range of views on this.
> >
> > Peter Morgan
> >
> > The conservation battle is never finally won; the  development battle is.
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