Winter is a prime time for bird feeders. However, a quick Google search will show thousands of different opinions on whether or not feeding birds is good. Here are the pros and cons of backyard bird feeders to help you decide:
Backyard Bird Feeder Pros
Watching birds in the comfort of your backyard is non-intrusive and provides much education and pleasure. It may even help some types of birds survive harsh winter months. Bird feeders primarily attract birds local to the area the feeder is placed in. These birds have natural sources of food. For this reason, bird feeders are usually a supplemental source of food. Therefore, birds are unlikely to stop searching their natural habitat for food when a bird feeder is placed.
Bird feeding has been proven to have an immediate positive effect on birds, particularly chicks. Chicks that are given a little extra help with supplemental food fly earlier and have a higher survival rate.
Birds that use supplemental feeders throughout the winter often lay eggs earlier, which allow them to successfully hatch and raise more chicks. For example, the House Finch has expanded in population over the last fifty years due, in large part, to the help of bird enthusiasts.
Negatives of bird feeders
Sometimes well-meaning bird watchers make bad decisions that can have negative consequences for the birds. Some birds may settle in areas that cannot support them if the supply of bird feed from a friendly household is diminished or removed entirely. This does not happen often, but is possible in highly developed areas or areas with especially harsh winters.
The other primary negative of bird feeders is that they can sometimes attract unwanted rodents, like squirrels and rats, when bird seed and peanuts drop to the ground. These rodents can be pests but can easily be controlled with a few simple deterrents.
Is feeding birds good or bad?
While there are some disadvantages to bird feeding, the positives far out weight the negatives. Many birds in suburban and urban communities would be gone entirely if not for the help of benevolent bird watchers.
For many people, bird watching is a gateway into nature conservation awareness. In addition, it helps wildlife researchers to better track bird populations. Although there are some negatives to bird feeders, the positives are so strong that back yard bird feeders are here to stay!