Feeding Birds

To: "" <>
Subject: Feeding Birds
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:05:57 +0000
I used to be against the feeding of birds, but I now am not so against it.

When I was at the Argyle Diamond Mine in the NE Kimberley of WA, at
about 5am (or often 9pm the night before) I put out a little bird
seed and some sultanas each morning and filled a water bath outside
my village room. Since I worked 2 weeks on / 2 weeks off, none of the
birds relied on this food. It was great to see a few finches (mostly
Double-barred and Long-tailed but occasionally a few others),
Olive-backed Oriole, Great Bowerbird, Northern Rosella, etc. Of
course I was only there for a very short period in the morning to
observe them. But it was only a little food that I put out, and so I
am sure it was well gone by 7am or so.

A few people around the mine site would put out a little food, and so
this would be a good way to meet people interested in birds and talk
to them about the birds. It also meant that people would report
unusual birds to me, or would report breeding records to me. This
probably wasn't the healthiest of food. Fruit cake, a little cheese,
broken cracker biscuits. But it was only a little during their
morning tea breaks. A Great Bowerbird with only the lower mandible
visited one of these sites for at least two years. Not sure what
caused the injury, and I was amazed that it could survive.

I think that one of the reasons that birding is orders of magnitude
more popular in North America and Europe is the feeding of birds. It
is quite a large industry in these areas, and there are all sorts of
feeders designed to keep out the squirrels, corvids, etc. And of
course the hummingbird feeders in many parts of the USA. I am sure
that this interaction with the birds greatly increases their interest
in birds and wildlife. Surely this is a good thing?

On many of my overseas trips, we visit feeders, especially in South
America. A very easy way to see many hummingbirds, tanagers,
antpittas, a few tinamous, a few wood quail, a few pigeons, etc.
Certainly much better for the birds than trying to locate them
elsewhere (and yes of course much better for the birders).

In Australia there is feeding at O'Reillys at Lamington NP. There are
feeders in FNQ that attract catbirds, riflebirds, etc. A trip in the
south of WA would throw a herring to a White-bellied Sea Eagle.
Pelagic trips use chum to attract the seabirds close to the boat.

I don't have problems with any of the above.

However, feeders in Perth mainly attract ferals. Corellas, Galahs,
doves, Rainbow Lorikeets, etc. I certainly think this is a problem,
and I can certainly see that the risk of diseases would be greater
with either birds being released from aviaries, or visiting the
aviaries and moving on.

At Lake Monger in Perth, large quantities of bread were put out to
feed the ducks, swans, gulls, etc as a tourist attraction. This had
severe negative effects to the birds, and especially to the water
quality, and this was stopped. Many lakes now have Do Not Feed The
Birds signs. I support this.

In Perth, the Carnaby's Black Cockatoos get most of the almonds and
macadamia nuts that are grown in people's backyards. They weren't
grown for the birds, but most people now accept that the cockatoos
will get most of the crop, unless they net the tree. With the loss of
the banksia woodlands / coastal heath on the Swan Coastal Plain, a
major part of the diet for the cockatoos in their non breeding season
is now pine nuts, almonds and macadamias.

But putting out a little bit of grated cheese for a Willie Wagtail
when it knocks on the window? or a little meat to a Grey Butcherbird?
or meat for some magpies? i.e. where the native species is targeted,
and the amount is small? I find it hard to believe that this is wrong
and that it should be the subject of a fine in any environmental
legislation. WA is in the process of revising its wildlife laws, and
issues like this will be involved.

In summary, there are practices that need to be stopped. But there
are others that I believe benefit the birds with very little risk to
them, and that these should be allowed. Perhaps it is difficult to
define the line, but I do not support a blanket ban on feeding wildlife.

Frank O'Connor                          Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694               Email : 

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