Are Bird Feeders Good for Wild Birds?

Feeding birds in your backyard is a good way to enjoy wildlife in the comfort of your home. Installing feeders in your garden will attract a variety of birds throughout the year.

Bird feeding provides a consistent food source and shelter for birds, especially in tough winter months. However, there are differing opinions from experts and scientists on the benefits and shortcomings of feeding birds. Some scientists claim that feeding wild birds harms the local ecosystem and impacts the birds’ natural migratory and feeding patterns. 

bird feeding in winter

The following are the negative implications of feeding wild birds:

Disrupt the balance between native and invasive species

Feeding wild birds can change the structure of bird communities in a locality and impact the relationship between native and invasive species. A study conducted in New Zealand in 2015 showed that the supplementary feeding of birds harms the relationship between native bird species and their environment.

Invasive bird species will benefit highly from supplemental feeding and will thrive in surroundings they are not naturally adapted. Native species, on the other hand, will decrease in number as their relationship with native plants is severely impacted by bird feeders. Feeding wild birds is therefore not recommended as it results in a high number of invasive varieties and an imbalance in the local ecosystem. 

Bird feeding is detrimental to endangered species.

According to the National Audubon Society, bird feeders increase the risk of extinction for endangered birds. Bird lovers without proper knowledge and training can reduce the odds of survival of these birds if they offer supplemental feeding.

humming bird feeding on birdfeeder

Bird feeders can impact the natural life cycle of wild birds. Some birds reproduce at certain periods of the year, depending on a variety of climatic factors and the availability of food. Bird feeders will influence unnatural reproductive cycles, reducing the odds of survival for young birds.

Human intervention can cause birds to leave their natural habitats, and reduce reliance on their instincts, relying instead on the readily available food in bird feeders. The birds will become dependent on your bird feeders, and when they are removed, they will have to work harder to seek alternative food sources.

In order to protect the survival of wild birds, it is best to allow them to naturally forage for food and interact with their surroundings based on how they are adapted to a certain ecosystem. Some birds depend entirely on feeders in the winter and would struggle to find food without them. 

Transmission of diseases

many birds feeding

Bird feeding increases the risk of transmitting bird diseases. Using shared bird feeders can result in certain conditions jumping from one species to another. Disease such as trichomoniasis and salmonella caused by dirty bird feeders is fatal to birds.

Here’s how to stop weeds from sprouting under bird feeders.

The increased presence of bird feeders will raise the risk of infections due to an unnatural congregation of birds. They can become hotspots for life-threatening diseases that can put entire populations of birds at risk. 

Consumption of unprocessed foods in bird feeders can make birds vulnerable to diseases. These foods may lack essential nutrients in natural diets, reducing their ability to fight infections. Further, young birds dependent on bird feeders have a lower capacity to forage in the wild, which may lead to starvation. 

bird using birdfeeder

Predatory and cat attacks

Increased feeding of birds leads to high populations of rodents and predators such as foxes and cats. The birds are susceptible to attacks by these predators, which shifts the balance in the ecosystem to the favor of the big animals.

Domestic cats kill around 1.3 to 4 billion birds every year. Placing bird feeders outside in your yard can make them vulnerable to cat attacks, which is detrimental to their survival. 

Is it illegal to feed wild birds?

Different laws across different states in the US govern the feeding of wildlife. Some states have laws that prevent using bird feeders, while others have specific regulations on the appropriate type of feeders for your backyard.

In the state of Florida, for example, it is illegal to feed Sandhill Cranes, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This is based on the argument that feeding the birds will make them used to humans, and they will become dependent on them for food and not forage for their natural diet in the wild.

Further, the state identifies over 30 species of endangered bird species that should not be fed. In the state of California, it is illegal to provide wild birds in a public space. 

It is important to check your state laws on the provisions for feeding wildlife and whether certain species are considered endangered. It would be best to consider the potential health hazards of feeding wild birds and the possibility of causing a nuisance to your neighbors due to excessive noise and bird droppings in the neighborhood. 

Should you stop feeding birds in the summer?

You should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of feeding birds in the summer. It is also important to educate yourself on the proper way to feed birds and what to feed them. Here are some pros and cons:

Why to feed birds in the summer

Keep the bird feeders during the summer to benefit the young birds. In the summer, adult birds will leave their nests to forage for food. When your bird feeders are full during this period, it will be a beneficial food source for the whole family of birds. 

Additionally, bird feeders can attract new bird species to your yard. Many migrating species will move during the winter, increasing the possibility of finding new bird varieties enjoying the birds’ feed. 

In order to feed birds during the summer, replace old bird feeders that might have rust or broken parts. For the feeders that are still operational, clean them regularly, at least once a week.

Place the feeders under a shade to avoid direct sunlight and precipitation, which may cause the seeds to spoil easily. Further, you should reduce the amount of food in your feeders to encourage the birds to forage for food in the wild.

Peanuts, sunflower seeds, mealworms, and bird seeds are best if you choose to keep the feeders up in the summer. Do not feed bread or rice to wild birds. 

Why not feed birds in the summer

Take down your bird feeders in the summer to reduce the potential for infectious diseases. The heat of the summer increases the probability of spreading diseases to birds. Therefore, it is advisable to stop all supplemental feeding of birds in hot weather. 

In the summer, most flowers are blooming, and seeds are plentiful. It would help if you encouraged the birds to pursue natural food sources such as sunflowers and viburnums during the summer months.

trees for birds

Birds need to feed on native plants for the nutritional value and maintenance of balance in the ecosystem. Additionally, the birds can feed on plenty of small insects in the summer. They are a vital source of protein that is not readily available in artificial feeds. 

Bird seed easily spoils under the hot weather of summer. Remove your bird feeders to reduce the risks of birds getting sick from consuming moldy and spoiled seeds. 

Final word

Bird feeders are a good way to attract birds to your yard. There are many arguments against feeding wild birds, including the high potential for infections and ecosystem imbalance. While feeding wild birds is not outright illegal in many areas, bird lovers must consider the implications of bird feeders on native bird populations. The decision to feed birds in the summer is up to the individual gardener.