Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

To Feed or Not To Feed? The Impacts of Backyard Bird Feeders

An experimental bird feeder in New Zealand. Credit: Josie Galbraith

An experimental bird feeder in New Zealand. Credit: Josie Galbraith

By Josie Galbraith

Bird feeding is a popular way for people to interact with urban wildlife, but what are the consequences for birds, bird populations and native biodiversity as a whole?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Food is a critical necessity of life, a shared need for all of us life-forms living on the planet. It can be hard work finding enough food to survive, or, in our case, earning the money to pay for our groceries each week.

We humans are an odd bunch, though. Many of us choose to spend some of our hard-earned resources providing food for other animals, particularly wild animals that give us nothing tangible in return. Birds are by far the most popular group of animals to feed. Estimates of participation rates from New Zealand (https://goo.gl/tNsyyt), Australia, the USA, the UK and Europe range from one- to two-thirds of the population. In the USA alone around 60 million Americans feed wild birds, with the activity more popular than fishing by about 25 million people (https://goo.gl/qPg48E).

Equally as impressive is the amount of food being served up. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, an estimated 5.1 million loaves of bread goes to hungry birds instead of people every year. A 2002 estimate put the amount of seed being fed to wild birds in the USA at 500,000 tonnes/year – a figure that has undoubtedly grown since then. By any measure, the scale of this seemingly benign pastime is absolutely staggering.

Why people choose to feed...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.