Are winter snacks killing birds?

Sparrow at a bird feeder Photo by Ed Hoskins, Public domain

Sparrow at a bird feeder
Photo by Ed Hoskins, Public domain

Adapted from The Vancouver Sun

Level 3

Bird feeders are not a good idea.
Other animals eat the food, also.
Squirrels can climb into them.
Rats and coyotes can eat the food that falls out.
Bears like bird seed, too.


Squirrel eats from a bird feeder. Photo by Grimmcar, Wikimedia Commons

Squirrel eats from a bird feeder.
Photo by Grimmcar, Wikimedia Commons

Stop feeding
People think they are helping birds
get food in the winter.
People like to watch the birds
when they are at the feeder.
Randy Shore of The Vancouver Sun,
says, “… it’s just the wrong thing to do.”
Shore says the birds get used to bird-seed.
Then the birds do not learn
to look for other food in nature.
“At worst, you are killing them outright,” Shore adds.

Pigeon stealing from bird feeder Photo by Darren Lewis, Public Domain

Pigeon stealing from bird feeder
Photo by Darren Lewis, Public Domain

Killing with kindness
Students at the University of Alberta
did a study on bird deaths.
Birds hit about 39% of homes they studied.
One-third of those birds died.
The common thing with each bird’s death
was a bird feeder near the house.

Worst places
Small birds like chickadees and sparrows
fly at high speed to bird feeders.
Sometimes they turn sharply so
they do not hit another bird.
This is worse because they often
run head-first into a window.
They fall to the ground.
The students said many bird feeders
are in the worst possible place.
People put the feeders three
or four metres from a window.
Bird-lovers want to watch the birds.

The cost is high
The study guesses that every year
22 million birds die from window collisions.
Other studies find that some species
die if people stop filling their feeders.
For example, the person filling the feeder
forgets, becomes ill. The person moves or dies.
These species do not
look other places for their food.

How to help
Make sure your yard has some cover from weather.
It should have places for birds to sit and relax.
There should be areas for food hunting.
There should be places for birds
to have a bath or drink.

Three birds bathing Photo by Mikiko Walker, Public Domain

Three birds bathing
Photo by Mikiko Walker, Public Domain

Birds need water, too
“Birds also really appreciate a little water,
especially in the city,” says Erin Innes.
Innes teaches how to have organic food gardens.
Birds will come by the dozen if there is
a large container of water.
Put pieces of driftwood or branches around it
so the birds have a place to perch, or sit.
Sunflowers in the yard will give birds
seeds through the winter.

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