Feeding the birds

by Pippa Greenwood

Are we subjecting our beautiful birds to deficiencies and lower immunity to disease...?

pg_feeding_birds1While most people will be thinking about the festivities, I have other things on my mind. I'm finding myself worrying even more than usual about feeding the birds.

I was brought up to love wild birds and to try to look after them. This includes providing them with safe places to roost and raise their young, as well as a year-round supply of food.

But I'm worried. I know that feeding birds is a good thing, it helps many survive the miserable winter to live and breed the following spring. But as I watch the various tits pecking away at the peanuts in the feeders, and the sparrows and others eating the wild birdseed mix and other food we leave for them, I have a gnawing doubt: are peanuts and suet and other animal-fat-based balls and treats really what they should be eating?

I desperately want birds to survive and live in harmony with humans, but are we really helping them in the long term? What if these foods - which are far from the natural bird diet - constitute the avian equivalent of junk food?

Peanuts are obviously highly nutritious, as are the various seeds we put out for them, but what about bread and pasta? They're hardly what wild birds in my Hampshire garden would normally find to eat. Are we subjecting our beautiful birds to deficiencies and lower immunity to disease, or failure to forage for natural food (such as garden pests) that they would normally eat?

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Gardeners' World Web User 19/12/2008 at 20:22

I think its ok to feed the birds cause if we dont and they die we wont have any at all if its a bad or wet winter,ok we dont know if it is junk food but what is the alternative ? birds adapt to different food, and it isnt really long till spring so lets feed the birds and help them

Gardeners' World Web User 20/12/2008 at 13:08

I feed the birds all year round with peanuts for the small birds and apples, sultanas and muesli for the ground feeders like blackbirds. In the winter I also hang up a fat ball. This is all nutritious food which is good for the birds. I sometimes throw out bread and other scraps which probably is junk food but this does fill them up on a cold winter's day. Surely birds are like humans in that occasional junk food won't harm them? They are never going to eat only junk food, they will always supplement it themselves with other more natural food.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/12/2008 at 20:08

i agree with the first comment, i put steak and kidney pie, chips and mushy pea's out for the birds every friday, and last saturday, 2 robins invited me out for a pint.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/12/2008 at 10:50

i have just browsed the new gardeners world magazine and there is a project to make a nesting box from an old teapot, whoever thought of this doesnt know much about birds, even if a bird did lay eggs in it they would fall prey to all sorts of prededitors including woodpeckers

Gardeners' World Web User 21/12/2008 at 11:47

we are not allowed to feed the birds in my area as it encourages rats (milton keynes has a large rat population) also people in my nearby allotment site keep chopping the trees and hedges down so locally we have a very sparce bird population much to my disappointment. Therefore those that can feed our birds please continue.

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