Feeding Birds

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Feeding Birds
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2016 10:55:23 +0000
As Frank has pointed out, the way birds are fed affects the consequences of the 

We had an elderly neighbour who hand fed Kookaburras from her kitchen window on 
a daily basis.  As a result, we had dense populations of kookaburras, 
currawongs, butcherbirds, crows and magpies, and a subsequent shortage of prey 
species.  After the feeding stopped when she moved out, there were falls in the 
numbers of those species (and we aren’t woken predawn quite so frequently).

Obviously, you get different species if you provide seed - though the crows and 
currawongs are quite partial to some seed mixtures.  My mother used to feed 
birds at her place on the Blackall Range (basalt soil, rainforest corridors).  
She spread bird seed around the lawn as well as placing it in a feeder.  That 
made it harder for the aggressive species to drive off the others.  As a 
result, she had species like firetails, bowerbirds and Wonga Pigeons turning up 
in addition to the usual suspects.

The managers of the Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges placed netting bags on 
the verandahs for guests to place fruit (bananas were best) for the birds - 
that bought in bowerbirds, riflebirds, catbirds and honeyeaters etc.

One consideration with artificial feeding is whether you are attracting 
“vermin” - e.g. rats and mice - mind you, these might be less of an issue if 
you have “pet" snakes ...

On the garden planting front, if you have lots of grevilleas etc, you are 
likely to end up with lots of lorikeets and Noisy Miners.  Alternatively if you 
have lots of mulch in Queensland, you could end up with resident turkeys (who 
are a force of nature).

Ultimately, my preferred approach would be to have a mixture of plants that 
provide habitat for the less aggressive species, such as woodland birds.  I 
recently stayed in some bird-friendly accommodation which had a broad mix of 
vegetation and offered excellent verandah birding - but that will be the 
subject of a separate post ...

Regards, Laurie

On 28 Jan 2016, at 1:58 pm, Dave Torr <> wrote:

> It has long been my theory Frank that the reason why we have so few birders
> per head of population compared to the USA and UK (and no doubt other
> countries as well) is the issue of bird feeding. I was brought up in the UK
> and we fed the birds. I lived in the US and there were lots of shops
> selling nothing but bird food and feeders - supposedly squirrel proof but
> none were! Here BOCA and Birds Australia were against it and I am sure this
> is why so few people grew up appreciating birds. (Now of course so few
> people actually have backyards!)
> Whilst some feeding is inappropriate I would rather see more birders around!
> On 27 January 2016 at 19:14, Maris Lauva <> wrote:
>> Cogently thought out and reasonable. Your approach has my vote Frank.
>> ________________________________________
>> From: Birding-Aus <> on behalf of
>> Frank O'Connor <>
>> Sent: Wednesday, 27 January 2016 2:05 PM
>> To: 
>> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Feeding Birds
>> 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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