Feeding Birds

To: 'Dave Torr' <>, "" <>
Subject: Feeding Birds
From: Julian Bielewicz <>
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2016 21:46:31 +0000
Greeting David

Like you I too was brought up in England where we regularly fed the birds,
perhaps with a little more vigour during winter cold snaps but nevertheless
more or less throughout the year.

I can well recall one of my fondest memories of bird feeders.  I was having
lunch with my then girlfriend [now wife] and on looking out of the
living-room bay window was pleasantly surprised to see a small group of
Long-tailed Tits _Aegithalos caudatus_ busily pecking away at the metal
contain filled with suet [beef fat].  Most of our neighbours [including
non-birders] fed birds.

Also like you, I retain fond memories of bird feeders in the USA.  Where
would Spoffords be without their bird feeders?  Would we ever have "ticked"
Gambel's Quail _Callipepla gambelii_, Costa's Hummingbird _Calypte costae_,
Violet-green Swallow _Tachycineta thalassina_ or  Northern Cardinal
_Cardinalis cardinalis_ without David Jasper's extensive bird feeder system?

Margaret Higbee, one of Pennsylvania's top birders, winner of the Earl L.
Poole Award, given annually to an individual, amateur or professional, for
outstanding contributions to ornithology in Pennsylvania [and our guide
during our all-too-brief stay in the State] had an extensive bird feeder in
her backyard: it provided us with Red-breasted Nuthatch _Sitta Canadensis_.

My problem with bird feeders rests in numbers.

While Australia has but a few thousand birders and only a handful feed
birds, millions of birders throughout Canada, Europe [including the U.K.]
and the United States feed birds.  As you rightly point out, in the USA they
even have shops entirely devoted to bird feeders.  Many exist in England.  .

Are they all in the wrong?

Whereas Birdlife Australia disapproves, some of the largest, most
scientifically productive bird organizations:

Birdlife Canada
Cornell Lab for Ornithology

to name but three that have recently sent me a newsletter not only approve
but actively encourage bird feeders.

Are these organizations also wrong?

On what evidence do people like Greg base their supposition that bird
feeders are inherently dangerous to birds?  Are we to suppose that the mass
majority [the Poms, Yanks and Canucks] are inferior birders to the miniscule
minority [the Aussies]?



PS Did I notice a recent advert for TRILL, a bird seed product in a BLA
publication?  Is this body just beginning to hesitate?

-----Original Message-----
From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of
Dave Torr
Sent: Thursday, 28 January 2016 1:58 PM
To: Maris Lauva
Cc: Frank O'Connor; 
Subject: Feeding Birds

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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