Burien, Washington




Mewsings from Millie

To feed or not to feed, that seems to be the question. There appears to be some confusion surrounding this popular hobby even though over 54 million folks across the country enjoy this activity.

Why wouldn't a person feed the birds? Do they worry that birds won't migrate? Are they concerned the birds will spread disease and the seeds of noxious weeds? Do they fret about rats and the birds getting fat? The answer is all of the above and I wondered about the truth of it all and did a little investigating.

According to some people who should know about these things like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, Bird Studies Canada, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bird feeding is safe for birds and is a valuable hobby.

Data confirms that bird feeding does not have a negative impact on bird populations and does not bring birds into an environment that is any more dangerous (such as predators and disease) than ones they face in the wild.

Being of feline persuasion, believe me people, rats are not a new problem. If bird feeding is done responsibly with appropriate products and techniques, rodent activity should not be a concern.

Bird feeding does not spread noxious weeds. In fact, the presence of noxious weed seeds in wild bird food violates state agricultural regulations. Bird seed is specifically inspected and tested for noxious weed seed.

Keeping the bird food buffet available will not stop birds from migrating. Migration results from changes in day length which triggers the release of hormones that stimulate areas of a bird's brain and tells the bird it's time to go.

Speaking of migration, birds eat more before they begin their long journeys. Birds do not "overfeed" at feeders and become obese. They increase their weight and store fat to enable them to survive the trip. Could you fly from Seattle to South America without extra fuel? I think not!

Research studies on backyard birds such as Black-capped Chickadees have shown that they get only 20 - 25% of their diet from bird feeders. The rest of their diet comes from natural resources. Birds naturally seek a diverse diet and are not dependent on a single food source for their nutrition and survival.

Giving access to bird feeders benefits birds in many ways. They spend less time foraging for food and have more time to engage in activities that enhance their health and safety. These activities include nest building, caring for and protecting chicks, preening to keep feathers in top flight condition, avoiding predators, and molting which takes tremendous energy.

After learning all of this, I'm not really sure what the fuss is all about. Bird feeding is good for the birds and creates enjoyable habitat for birds and people alike if done responsibly. Oh, and it makes for great "kitty-TV". Feed the birds!

Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews