So How Beneficial is Feeding Backyard Birds?

Seems it is…in a big way.

Sparrow_FlyingTo_Feeder

Sparrow on the way to the feeder.

On the advent of the Great Backyard Bird Count, there still is many that think it is bad practice in artificial dependency to feed the birds. Contrary, the reality is that many birds, as adapted as they are, teeter-totter between life and death often in winter in many cold regions around the world.

Some will succumb due to weather conditions or lack of available feeding habitat. Birds everywhere are in decline as noted in the statistics below, attributable to many reasons, one of which is habitat loss. As an example of altered feeding behavior…

GoldFinch_Winter_Plumage

Goldfinch in winter Plumage

Do you realize that our past summer droughts and early onset freezes have greatly affected the available food sources of our feathered friends from Canada southward? Natural sources were depleted and did not produce. So…

Birds such as Pine Siskins and Red Breasted Nuthatch are in search much farther south than their natural range. This is contrary to findings of other bird species in other regions. This information is relevant to our area and is provided from an interview with Marilyn O’Connell, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited. Has your bird count found this to be true?

Nearly 60 percent of the 305 relatively widely distributed species found in North America in winter are on the move, shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles based on the past 40 years of citizen-science Christmas Bird Count data. (source)

Another behavior change a few continents away… the pied flycatchers, a common migratory bird, “are missing their spring meals and dying as a result of climate change.” By breeding a week earlier, the birds and the insects they feed their young get out of sync. By arriving a week late to breeding grounds, they run into not having sufficient time to breed to raise young.

So do you think the birds need a helping hand?

If you were a two ounce creature outdoors in 9° weather and you had to maintain a body temperature of 104°F, would you not take the free handouts too?

3Sparrows

Three Sparrows in a Snow Storm

Searching Naturally…

Birds search on the average between four and six hours each day in their natural habitat, and the cold of winter drains their fat supplies nightly. They lose about 10% of their body weight each night trying to keep warm and extended cold spells spell disaster.

Can birds survive without our hard-earned dollars and daily efforts? Sure they can, except when they can’t. Some will suffer as I mentioned above from poor summer growth of their natural seed-producing plants and subsequent loss of insects attracted to the native plants.

In my own garden this past summer, the viburnum set berries, but they shriveled from summer drought before of use to the birds. Can you see that happening widespread?

Dove_On_Pear_Branch

Mourning Dove Perching in a Pear

Oh, and the Haters

Some communities, neighborhood associations and local governments have attempted to ban bird feeding, or at least discourage it. They base reasoning on attracting undesirable creatures such as rats and mice, to avian predators such as hawks and eagles, to nuisance birds such as Cow Birds, Crows, Starlings, and our small House Sparrows, currently on endangered watch lists around the world.

Also detractors cite transmission of communicable diseases passed among healthy birds at busy feeders (not that they have a clue) and play on those news headlines of starlings and red-winged blackbirds dropping from the sky.

Are these same organizations also going to ban seed producing plants and trees?

Trees also drop fruit and seed for the rodents. Fruiting trees make a big decaying mess (Ginko biloba) and create offensive odors sometimes too. Most decorative city trees installed are non-fruit bearing varieties like the purple-leaf plum. Would it not be great to walk out for lunch and pick an apple? It would help urban bird populations too.

Birds_Foraging

Birds ground foraging.

Backyard feeding has other benefits to birds beside the obvious.

Another fact of which you might not be aware, is birds produce larger clutches of eggs due to better health maintained throughout the winter. Below is one of the birds fledged last year in my yard.

BlueJay_In_Pear

Blue Jay in the Pear Tree

Some species of Common Birds have nose-dived as much as 80 percent, and all 20 birds included in the Common Birds in Decline report have lost at least 50 percent of their population – in just four decades. (source)

It really makes one think. And we keep feeding.. all 65 million of us in the US.

Sparrows_At_Feeder

Sparrows mobbing the feeder.

Birds seem to predict stormy weather. Many species increase feeding prior to a storm, intensely and furiously feeding just before bad weather rolls in.

That little woodpecker below is one of my best weatherman.  So nice of him to pose, no? There are six of them, also some hatched here last year. They all battle over the suet before a big storm arrives.

woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Posing on a Concolor

Calories Count…

Did you know birds can only store enough calories in fat to last for 16 to 24 hours on average? Take a look at the evening feeder panic that happens just before sunset. The birds are grabbing as much seed as possible right before it gets dark and then again first thing at morning light.

Goldfinch-3

Goldfinch with black oil sunflower seed in its beak.

Hawk_InLilac

Sharp-shinned Hawk

But is casual feeding enough?

Next time a bird comes pecking at your door (window in my case), fill those feeders.

Bird_Feeder

Sparrows in Flight

In an upcoming post, I will show more birds and have additional cold weather info on our feathered friends.  Some information might surprise you in How Do Birds Keep Warm in Winter?.

Goldfinch

Looking a bit dull Goldie!

Who needs flowers in winter? Hope your bird counting is successful and your birds, many.

Are the kids counting? If not, here is something from The Great Backyard Bird Count just for the little ones. Color the birds! They are really cute. It gave me an idea what to do with my bird illustrations too.

Want more birds visiting you and tips on photographing them in pretty portraiture? See my series Deep in the Season of Down. Get those photos to send into the GBBC.

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About Donna Brok

Love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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74 Responses to So How Beneficial is Feeding Backyard Birds?

  1. Donna, I do not want to feed the birds year-round, but I am aware of two realities: (1) if you START feeding the birds, they will come to depend on you, and (2) keeping the feeder full in winter can be a matter of life or death for your daily “visitors,” especially when a lot of snow covers the ground and trees/shrubs.

    For these reasons, I wait until about Nov. 1 to set out my feeder and fill it. My rationale is that most migrating birds will have left for the winter, so I’m not tempting any to stay behind by putting out the feeder too early. I stop feeding them about the end of April or May (depending on how early it gets warm), when the birds can begin to forage Mother Nature’s bountiful feeder. –John

    • Thanks John for the summer feeding point, I should have mentioned it. Summer feeding is unnecessary, but winter feeding does help greatly when under feet of snow. The last image of the Goldfinch has the bird eating the fruit from the pear. Even in yards that feed seed, there should be plants that provide also. The problem this past year, is that fruit dried (my viburnum) before maturing and that did not help the birds at all.

  2. Christy says:

    Hi Donna….love this post. We feed and water the birds year-round. We also plant with wildlife in mind. I’ve seen birds, Goldfinches for example, eat from the sunflower seed feeder in winter, but in summer they cover the Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans to eat those seeds. It’s like when I buy tomatoes at the store during winter when that’s all that’s available, but I only eat our home-grown tomatoes in summer because they taste better.

    • As I mentioned to Gauchoman, the goldfinch here do not really visit here in summer, even though I have drifts of plants they enjoy. They are not getting what they need in their natural habitat and have come to the feeders for the seed. I was surprised and it is the first year they visited in winter. I like the tomato analogy. They take what they can get. Better that than starve.

  3. gauchoman2002 says:

    Yeah,we feed the birds and make no apologies for doing so. On a purely selfish note – we enjoy watching them, and most of when we feed them is naturally occurring, sunflowers, coneflowers, and various berry bushes/shrubs. And this may be misguided sentiment, but I feel it’s the least we can do to offer amends for our species (humans) destroying and polluting so much of their world. Besides we don’t feed them much, we just augment the natural sources of food with sunflower seeds and suet in winter to help the birds get through the cold months.

    • I was excited to see goldfinch in the garden this winter. It is kinda rare in my city garden. I have a large drift of coneflower and Susans but it does not attract them in summer. They keep to the meadows at the Falls. That is a bit of a good thing and bad for me. I live so darn close to the natural habitats, that many bird species don’t visit the garden.

      Also, it attracts the hawks to my garden. I have a post coming up in this series on birds surviving the winter called, A Blizzard Brings Out the Hawks. I follow a hungry hawk in my garden through numerous unsuccessful attempts at bagging a meal, until he finally gets a sparrow. All this time, a petrified and very unlucky jay sits in the tree in open area, scared for its life. I was really glued watching what would happen.

  4. Alistair says:

    Donna, I will kill two birds with one stone here today, (now that just sounds so wrong) First of all I am fully with you on feeding the birds. In fact the experts here have been saying for some time, carry on feeding after Winter is over. The common house sparrow is seriously in decline over here. At one time, sparrows, starlings and blackbirds were all we would see. Now, calling every day, whether its because of our feeding regime we seem to get all the more unusual birds that were once just seen in the countryside. Now for the second thing, I do see my website in the correct box below at the moment, an email address that I don’t use is showing in the first box, I will change that to see if it has the desired effect.

    • I have a post coming up on Sparrow decline. I researched the many proposed possibilities and am really shocked at the drop in numbers in the UK and India. Here we have them in numbers, so it is hard to understand the decline worldwide. Did you know March 20th is World Sparrow Day? My post is on this day celebrating awareness about the decline of the house sparrow. I figure if I post it ahead, many more will know of it by March. Then we all can photograph sparrows around the world. BTW, your link is now working. Good news.

  5. We feed our birds throughout the winter. I like to grow plants that will provide seeds and enjoy watching what birds are attracted to my offerings. We get the Sparrow Hawks, the Magpies nest close to Blue Tits for easy pickings. Its natural predation and it would happen in the wild anyway. I will continue to enjoy feeding my birds. Another point, is older people in Residental care love to see the birds at the bird table. It gives them a sense of familiarity and helps improve mental health and well being.

    • You made a very good point on the residential care facilities and the clients they house. It gives them a connection to nature and a connection to home. Like you said, it increases mental acuity also, keeping them happy, alert and interested in all that surrounds them. Thanks for adding this.

  6. A.M.B. says:

    You make many important points about the environmental benefits of bird feeders! In my opinion, one of the major environmental benefits is that it encourages my family’s connection with nature and it is helping me raise three environmentally-conscious young women. In the process of feeding birds, my children are learning about the environment and conservation. So, I think feeding birds in the backyard is quite beneficial to all involved.

    • Another great comment and point on involvement with children for learning and fun. Kids love watching birds, it helps them with creativity though imagination too. Maybe someday one of your children grows up to be an environmentalist, or scientist solving our environmental challenges. That is why I added the link to the GBBC and kids’ activities. Kids need to start young and the possibilities are endless.

  7. Great article, and good information. I just love the photo of all the birds on the ground, brown interspersed with red Cardinals. Beautiful photos as always.

    • Thank you. I need to put on a wide angle lens and show cardinals in all the shrubs and trees. It is so pretty with many of them visiting. The problem is they are wary and the second I open the door, they dash.

  8. Interesting post. Have you read Bernd Heinrich’s book Winter World. He explains in a fascinating user-friendly but scientific way how animals survive the cold? For birds he focuses on the miniscule ruby crowned kinglet. You make a lot of good points, but it is my understanding that baby birds eat insects not birdseed when they hatch in the spring. Insects need native plants to feed on and those are disappearing at a rapid rate so that insects are declining which is the major cause of songbird declines. It would seem that gardeners need to feed the birds and plant native plants. Sumac is a key species for keeping birds alive in winter because its seeds are available in late winter. Also the berries on invasives non-native plants like bush honeysuckle actually hurt the birds who eat them because they receive no nutritional value like they would eating native berries—-kind of like raising your kids on twinkies—and they attract an inordinate amount of deer ticks.

    • Thanks for adding, but I am noting the insect decline for baby birds in an upcoming a post in this series on sparrow decline and this is where I really mention the fact that insect decline is also coinciding with lower egg production, loss of habitat for nesting and also lower weight baby birds in nest.

      I mention native plants in my next post in the series on birds keeping warm. Unfortunately, the real fact of the matter is many natives did not produce nearly enough seed and fruit in the last few drought stricken years. I gave an example in my own yard in this post. I agree on sumac, and that is why I planted a pear – the late fruit lasts until spring. The vacant lot behind me has many wild sumac and as much as I hate the rampant seeding of this unruly plant, it is a good source of food for birds.

      • We need the native plants to produce the leaves for the insects to eat. The seeds and fruit are just an added bonus which as you point out can be replaced with homeowner’s seeds.

        • I do know that Carolyn, since the caterpillars are a young birds food source in summer here. This post was so long and really just focused on backyard feeding in winter. But the drought conditions here really affected the plants for both the insects and the seeding for birds. See my comment to Marguerite.

          • This discussion I am having here on native plants and insects that feed on them, insects that subsequently feed bird juveniles (out of the scope of this post), can be further understood by finds I reported on another post I did back in 2011, (but I am sure has further updated study currently). Here is a few excerpts from W4W Weathering – The Big Resolve. It is wonderful to plant native plants and makes the most sense for many reasons but what may be happening to native plants is becoming alarming. The story is not as simple as saying to just plant natives as a few readers are suggesting. While the “right” thing to do, there is much more to this story as a warming Earth unfolds.

            “Findings have shown that plants that range northward because of climate change may be better at defending themselves against local enemies than native plants. Some studies postulate that the newly invasive species will be winning the battle of survival against the native plants out of a simple reason of taste preference.

            The invasive species will not appeal to the herbivores and insects which will choose native plants of which they are accustomed. The weed plants, having an unjust advantage, would then receive the reward of pollination without the ramification of being eaten. At least until their specific predator finds its way to the area. Studies presuppose that an arrival disparity of timing will occur.”

            Like I reported in this post that birds are ranging northward,”Nearly 60 percent of the 305 relatively widely distributed species found in North America in winter are on the move.” so are the plants on which the insects feed. Hence, also the plants that feed birds in winter with seed and dried fruit. This change creates a huge threat to biodiversity. The entire post is interesting and can be found at, http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2011/12/27/w4w-weathering-the-big-resolve/ If you are as interested in this subject as I am, give this post a look.

  9. Excellent post! I have to admit it is a relief that bird feeding is good for birds because I would hate to give up this hobby – it provides so much entertainment. I think the shortage of natural foods this year, due to the extreme weather patterns, is the reason why this winter has been a “good” one for back yard bird watching. That is, more birds are driven to bird feeders. On the other hand, I would be in favor of banning ginkgo trees.

    • Many different reputable sources are coming around on backyard feeding and have supported your statement on more birds visiting feeders in years of late. It has more to do with the recent findings of so many species of birds in decline as to why feelings are changing on a favorite pastime shared by many. Loss of natural habitat has impacted birds greatly and so has recent droughts. I myself was one on the side of biologists for many years. I followed the practice of limiting bird dependency. But if there are no birds, it really does not matter much! I have been following these studies and it is a shame the depth of problems facing many species, not just birds.

  10. HolleyGarden says:

    Great information! How I wish I could feed the birds. (Too many cats here.) Perhaps I will start adding some plants farther out so they will have some natural sources of food and shelter.

  11. Marguerite says:

    I don’t feed birds as we have cats but I like the idea of being able to feed birds naturally better than just providing feeders. It seems to me if more people would plant native plants around their homes it would help ease the habitat loss birds are experiencing.

    • I do both and for the reason it happened this year. We had such dry conditions this summer, that the plants I do have (many natives) did so poorly producing a food source for birds and insects. I was away much of the summer and did not have any watering system in place. I used to have irrigation, but removed it years ago to save on water for environmental reasons. As good as natives are on surviving regional weather conditions, our area is not known for little rain and high heat. So much of what I saw at the Falls in the wild meadows did not even make it to the bloom season.

      I usually look forward to photographing the meadows in late summer and early fall, and foliage was pathetically dry and dead. I did not photograph this year which is VERY telling.

      I agree with you on hoping more people landscape with native plants, but again, the homeowner will have to maintain these plants as well. Native plants in the very near future will be the only plants to deal with the changing climate. But as you can see, it will affect a lot of industry, from plant growers to huge industry in fertilizing, pesticides and the like. I don’t see much changing there unless it becomes of no other choice.

  12. Such incredible photos! Just amazing. What a pleasure to visit your blog. I’m going to continue to reread all of your bird blogs just to enlarge my world. Best, Paula

  13. alesiablogs says:

    We are not regular bird feeders. It depends on the mood my husband is in…haha He builds birdhouses for other folks all the time and than forget to fill our own! I sometimes remind him to go get seed etc as I enjoy the birds antics when everyone is gone from the house but me.. As always LOVE LOVE your photos.

    • Speaking of husbands, my husband kept feeding the birds when I was away in St. Lucia. That was a first for him. He actually enjoyed watching them too and counted 14 cardinals at once. He was so excited to tell me that there was14 because I never saw that many at once myself. Maybe you can get your hubby to look for cardinals.

  14. Today I watched a yellow-bellied sapsucker chase away a downy woodpecker from one of our suet feeders. It was rather amusing. I have never heard of HOAs banning bird feeding (or attempting too). How crazy! Makes me wonder if these are the same neighborhoods that plant invasive species or alien plants that don’t support the local wildlife. What a dangerous path to take. Do they want to live in a completely sterile habitat? We counted on two separate days this weekend with the kids. It was a great family activity although it was very cold today…25 degrees here when we started which is really unusual for us. I even had to bring in the hummingbird feeders overnight so they wouldn’t freeze. It is an interesting observation about some birds wintering outside their normal range. Their habitats are changing as are the plant habitats that they rely on. I am writing a post on that issue right now.

    • It is amazing that there are places banning bird feeding. But it is funny because I landscaped such a development and had to do it with pre-approved plants like you mentioned. There were plants as junipers, barberry and burning bush. Two of three that were invasive. Each front yard property was designed exactly the same. The backyards were up to homeowners of which I designed. I also have a neighbor that complains about my bird feeding, the noise and the droppings. 25 degrees? Wow. Fun GBBC though. I did a post in Dec. 2011 on what you are researching and writing about. It really is an interesting study. Sad too on what is predicted. http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2011/12/27/w4w-weathering-the-big-resolve/

  15. I have found more birds in my gardens due to the natives but last year with the drought there was few berries for them. I planted a crab apple and black cherry to help and I plan on planting sumac. I added suet feeders and found daily visits from downy and hairy woodpeckers even in snow storms which amazed me.

    • Suet brings the woodpeckers in numbers. I only get the Downys though. They are very territorial and since they fledged here, have taken over all my suet offerings. I can not say I found MORE birds by planting native plants because I do live very near where most of the birds choose to live. Here, my property had robins, blue jays, grackles, and woodpeckers fledged last year.

      My crabapple did not produce fruit in 2012, it preformed like my viburnum. In 2011 it did, but the drought prevented it doing so for 2012. The pear did make fruit, but not as much as 2011. Other plants went dry as well and offered up little seed. Native plants are suffering with this change in weather pattern. They are not accustomed to the higher heat and lesser rains in our area. What summer will bring makes me worry each year now. At least we are getting snow, that was a huge factor in our drought last year because water tables were down. Last year we had only inches of snow and that did little for spring growth.

  16. Brian Comeau says:

    Normally I have lots of birds at my feeder but I’ve got a full feeder right now but no birds in a few months at it. Thoughts on why they are not coming around at all?

  17. Excellent post! I love watching the birds eat all year round and the chipmunks they bring me a great big smile each and every day. You have a gem here on your blog thank you for sharing all this info with us.

    • Thank you. I too enjoy the birds, in the backyard and in the natural areas around the Falls. I like chipmunks too. I have one living here and his name is Chipper. I know he comes for the bird food and lives in my garage.

  18. I have a hard time feeding just the tiny little birds, as the squirrels, crows, pheasants, voles et al are also enjoying a free lunch. However, I just have to leave enough food out for it to go around, I guess.

    (And it does mean that while the garden looks boring and white there’s always something interesting happening on the terrace where I put the food… I mean, a pheasant strutting his stuf a few feet from where you’re sitting with a warm blanket and a good book? Priceless!!!)

    • Yes, I too have those greedy little rodents and the big black Passeriformes too, ravens, crows, starlings, and grackles, but would give anything to see the pheasants once again. They were so common from my youth in Pennsylvania. I miss their beauty. I feed every visitor, not like I could do much to avoid it, but like you say, it is fun to see what struts by.

  19. igardendaily says:

    Very informative post Donna and something I would like to start spending more time learning about. We have some birds around here but I don’t know the types besides the usual robins, crows, starlings and magpies. We have 2 cats so I have never fed the birds but the cats are not all that active in Winter so maybe we could put a feeder our for winter only. Can you do that and then stop in Spring? I always leave plants standing that provide food to birds in the winter but it sounds like it would be helpful to the bird populations to do more. You have definitely provided much food for thought…

    • I have cats too, but they don’t go outside. I stop feeding in Spring. The birds don’t mind either as they head for the state parks. I leave the plants uncleared here as well, but on the one neighbor’s side, she cuts down my Susans and coneflowers. I really hate that but never said anything for fear of reprisal.

  20. igardendaily says:

    P.S. I love your photos and wish we had some cool birds like that around here. Maybe we do? :)

  21. Phil Lanoue says:

    Excellent photos and lots of helpful and accurate information! Well done!

  22. Bill S says:

    We feed the birds in winter but slow down in summer but we do make sure that there is a plentiful water supply in the summer. We are located quite close to farmland so the birds have an ideal feeding ground.

    The photos of the birds in flight are just stunning Donna.

    • I take down my two feeders in summer and replace them with hanging baskets. I am located near the Niagara parks, the natural ones. It is 8 blocks to the park with the falls, but along the way is the wooded areas and the other direction, the meadows. I love my morning summer walks.

  23. Patty says:

    Another great post Donna. I always feed the birds. Primarily for my own desires but also because I believe they are in need. I have been planting fruit bearing shrubs for the birds and having a hard time getting them to the point of bearing fruit due to the rabbits and racoons who think nothing of bringing a shrub down to eye level. Very frustrating but I persevere.

    • I know I selfishly feed too. A small part of me delights in having them here for my own photography, but I feel for them in the cold weather as well. That is why all critters are welcome even though it would be far less costly to have the squirrels dine somewhere else.

  24. Charlie says:

    It has taken more than 3 years to replant the yard and garden with plants that produce berries or perennials that provide seeds during the winter to eat, but it is now producing results. I also stated to put out water this winter and I am moving into plantings that can be used by the birds to roost and build nests. The result is my garden has never been healthier and I I have zero rodent problems. I don’t put out feeders generally, but I do have a feeder for the hummingbirds that overwinter in my yard. I believe sincerely that those seeking a more clinically sterile world can move to the more concrete areas of my city. Many in my metropolitan area keeping moving farther out into the woods and then they complain that the bears and cougars are a nuisance.

    • No rodents here either, but there are feral cats that take care of that. I have many native plants, but as I said in the post, the hot summer made them useless to birds for winter. Sometimes that happens and I make sure that the birds have food. I also noticed this year in the park meadows the same thing happening, dry and non-blooming native plants. A big problem to migrating wildlife is the paved over cities. Cities need to be more proactive in adding greenspace to help wildlife, but people also. It makes the city more livable.

  25. We feed the birds year-round. Their activity greatly reduces, of course, during the bitter cold. Although I noticed the juncos were still hopping around at the coldest point this winter, when the highs were below 0F! They are hardy little guys! I have cats, but they stay inside! The recent report about the dent domestic cats have made in the songbird population made me sad because I love birds and I love cats. If we’re going to have cats, it’s probably best to keep them indoors or enclosed in special housing outside.

    • Bird activity here increases with the cold weather. Most of the photos were taken in the big storm, Nemo. When the wind hits, they do go for cover though. When temps drop to 0° I never am watching myself – too cold by the window. Juncos and Chickadees are the ones out in the worse weather here too.

  26. Fossillady says:

    Wow Donna, I wasn’t aware the bird population was declining worldwide, but I guess it all makes sense with habitat being depleted daily. And that’s ridiculous to ban feeders, what the heck? I feed the birds a suet mixture with seeds and nuts. It’s such a joy to see them visit especially on those cold windy days like we’re having today! Hugs, Kathi :O)

  27. Fossillady says:

    Bird haters must lack a soul . . . how else could you explain that! Loved this post Donna and learned some things. Didn’t know for example that worldwide the bird population is declining, but I suppose it makes sense with daily depletion of habitat. I feed the birds all year round and its pure joy to watch them. On days like today, cold and windy, I feel good about contributing to mother nature in a positive way! Hugs,Kathi :O)

    • I was surprised at the statistics on loss of some bird species too. Habitat loss seems to be affecting many species, even people. There is getting to be less and less space so many places around the country. When you think back only twenty years, it comes so into focus with all the development happening. Each time I return to PA, I see so much new development where I lose bearings of what way to drive.

  28. Pingback: Winter Birds | The Authentic Me

  29. Great photos, yet you are feeding the extremely predatory, non-native English sparrow (seen in the first shot) that should be trapped and euthanized. This bird kills our endangered, native bluebirds in all stages of nesting. Look into traps for these monsters and rid you gardens of them–this is legal and necessary.

    • Thank you. I am aware that:
      The HOSPs attack and kill bluebirds in a gruesome manner.

      They destroy eggs and young too.

      Native birds like Chickadees abandon nestboxes simply by being harassed by the HOSP.

      A HOSP flock near nestboxes can cause premature fledging of other songbirds.

      They can overwhelm bird feeders by driving other species away, but I don’t find that here as a rule.

      Many of the HOSPs are trapped or poisoned for elimination, and have been for a long time. How do I feel about this? Well I like all life’s creatures and would not euthanize any bird. I can understand how others think differently though, especially since bluebirds are cute and timidly helpless. I feel for the HOSPs because it is not their fault as they seek life, and as any species, would do anything to have it. They are disappearing worldwide and science is unsure as to why. It makes sense to find out because other birds may fall to the same or similar fate.

      You might want to avoid my next post. Our country has too many sparrows and other places are approaching none. I do not want to see them gone because, like I said, they have a right to life too. Or you may want to add your thoughts in the comments. I plan to do a post for World Sparrow Day and it will certainly have many comments expressing thoughts like you.

      You might like my post after the disappearing sparrow post. Two hawks take out a few sparrows. You will see their little carcasses being consumed. Since sparrows kill bluebirds, how do you feel about hawks? Hawks are not picky on what bird they kill, bluebirds or sparrows.

      • The English Sparrow is the enemy to many native US birds. They were sloppily managed when introduced to the US in an English exhibit and escaped– now causing havoc with US native birds. Anyone reading this may contact me as to my techniques to rid their yards of this pest. Hawks are native birds, therefore I do not have a problem with them.

        • This is from Sialis. They are very much for the control of sparrows and have many different control options on their site. You probably know of them for their bluebird conservation. I just added the beginning of the sparrow’s history in this country.

          House Sparrows have been here since: “Initially, eight pairs were released in Brooklyn, NY in either 1850 or 1851 by a single person/group of New Yorkers. Apparently they died before they could breed.
          Accounts differ, but it appears that in 1850 Nicholas Pike, Director of the Brooklyn Institute, purchased the first 8 pairs of sparrows from Liverpool, England (the cost of the trip was $200 per Barrows). He released the 8 pairs in the spring of 1851. They did not “thrive.”
          The following year (1851) he oversaw purchase of another 25 pairs of birds that were released along the East River. (Barrows [1889] reported 100 birds purchased by Pike from England released in fall the 1851 and spring 1852.)
          The rest wintered under the care of the Brooklyn Institute, and were released in 1853 in Greenwood Cemetery.
          Birds were released into Central Park (possibly to control canker worms infesting the trees [Lyacock 1966, Roots 1976]), Union Square Park, and Madison Square Park.
          In 1854 and 1858, the bird was introduced to Portland Maine.”

          From: http://www.sialis.org/hosphistory.htm. This site has much to know about HOSP. Also for Biology, look at: http://www.sialis.org/hospbio.htm

  30. flora says:

    love love your shots…beautiful ..I especially like the first one…thanks for sharing …love birds too!

  31. Another great post. I always feed the birds in the winter through spring when their food sources in the landscape start to be available. Great in flight photos of the sparrows. I sure had a flurry of birds at my feeders this past weekend for the count.

  32. Bob Bamberg says:

    Great article and even greater pictures, Donna. I’d like to advocate for summer feeding, though, for a number of reasons:
    INCREASED BIRD POPULATION…summer visitors, migratory birds passing through, and fledglings leaving the nest all compete for the same available food.

    INCREASED NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS…maintaining optimum breeding condition and the almost non-stop feeding of hatchlings imposes additional nutritional demands on the birds.

    DWINDLING INSECT POPULATIONS…our use of insecticides to protect us and our gardens, shrubs and trees greatly reduces the insect population in our yards. Drift can impact insect populations along the perimeter of our property.

    AVAILABILITY OF SEEDS, FRUITS, NUTS, ETC….poor growing conditions, disease and insect infestations can negatively impact the success of trees and bushes in producing crops.

    Plus, there are benefits that accrue to us by feeding birds during the summer.
    NATURAL INSECT CONTROL…even though our seed is available, it doesn’t stop the birds from feeding on the local creepy crawlies. I have a bird feeder on my deck and I could leave the slider open all summer and hardly ever get an insect in the house…only raccoons!

    BIRDS’ SONG AND COLOR…what an additional sensory treat.

    THE FUN OF WATCHING THEM BRING FLEDGLINGS TO THE FEEDER…the babies flutter their wings in a begging behavior and the parents will often, but not always, pass them a seed. I can’t wait to share this spectacle with my 3 year old grandson this summer.

    Thanks for letting me present another point of view. I hope I’ve given your readers some food for thought.

  33. Pingback: Backyard birds: Goldfinch at the feeder | Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

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