Hi David and others,
There is no doubt that feeding birds and other wildlife can provide some
wonderful opportunities to observe (and photograph) them but at what cost?
I have previously detailed the problems with feeding birds (disease,
unnatural flocking, concentration of predatory birds, the exclusion of small
passerines, unsuitable food, aggressive animals etc.) but you seem to
dismiss these concerns as irrelevant because millions of people in the
northern hemisphere feed birds and they can't be wrong. Humans have
developed many habits that in hindsight are found to be wrong regardless of
the good intentions at the beginning. Dousing people with DDT was seen as
the correct thing to do in the 1940s, clearing large tracts of bushland was
seen to be the correct thing, burning fossil fuels was seen to be the
correct thing. The one good thing about humans is that we can learn from
our mistakes and take corrective action but we don't always do so.
It would be good if you could provide scientific evidence that feeding
have the consequences that I have outlined. You ask me what my evidence is.
As an ecologist I have studied the ecology and biology of birds, including
their behaviour. I have observed birds being fed and the consequences and
have worked regularly with the New South Wales National Park & Wildlife
Service where I have seen first hand the problems of wildlife feeding.
Animals that are fed often lose their natural fear of humans. This is not
such an issue with smaller species but birds like kookaburras, currawongs,
magpies and butcherbirds can become quite a problem, even a danger, in
national park picnic areas. Feeding Dingoes on Fraser Island has led to the
death of one boy and large Lace Monitors have had to be removed from picnic
areas on the north coast of NSW as they were becoming aggressive and were
approaching people for food in a dangerous manner.
I have heard reports that the Quokkas on Rottnest Island in Western
Australia show the signs of being fed by humans. Apparently the animals
that have little contact with humans have a healthy coat and look healthier
than those that are fed. I am not sure whether people are still allowed to
feed the Quokkas today but if they aren't it would be good thing for these
interesting small macropods.
I still argue that the problems with feeding wildlife out weight the
benefits and the benefits are mostly to the human feeder and not the
Dr Greg. P. Clancy
Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide
| PO Box 63 Coutts Crossing NSW 2460
| 02 6649 3153 | 0429 601 960
From: Julian Bielewicz
Sent: Saturday, January 30, 2016 8:46 AM
To: 'Dave Torr' ;
Cc: 'Frank O'Connor' ;
Subject: Feeding Birds
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?
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