According to the journal Science, 2.9 billion or nearly 30% of our birds in the United States and Canada have vanished since 1970. The majority of the decline of our birds is due to habitat loss and you may wonder whether you can help by feeding the birds. What are the pros and cons of having bird feeders?
PROS OF FEEDING THE BIRDS:
The added nutrition may help birds survive during migration or harsh winters.
It helps birds to be in better condition for reproduction come spring and thus have more and healthier babies.
Birds are fun to watch and can provide a connection to nature and entertainment, especially during the dreary winter months.
CONS OF FEEDING THE BIRDS:
When birds gather at feeders, they are more likely to spread disease.
It can attract predators for an easy meal, especially cats.
Brings birds closer to house where they may fly into the windows.
It can be expensive to keep filling the feeders with bird seed.
Can get messy under the feeders.
Possible you will be in constant war with the squirrels who gobble up the seed.
Bird feeders are not always the most aesthetically pleasing.
There is a valid argument to be made that, like how we shun feeding other wildlife, we shouldn't feed the birds either. However, since birds are in such steep decline, maybe it is okay to give them a little help to survive the winter and to help them have abundant and healthy babies. The birds generally do not need our help with food in the summer, so stick to only winter feeding. Doing so reduces your cost and effort and forces birds to forage on their own for the majority of the year. To reduce disease, be sure to clean your feeders every few weeks. Keep an eye out for predators, especially cats, who can cause further pressure on the bird population.
Personally, I put out a few feeders in the winter, in my direct morning coffee sightline, because I simply enjoy watching the birds and seeing signs of nature in the winter. I am not sure if I am making any difference, but watching them makes me smile, so why not? The fact however is, the greatest impact you can have on the health of the bird population is in how you design and maintain your property throughout the year. Foster healthy bird habitats by providing shelter, water and plants that birds can feed on. Also, avoid toxic sprays that can directly harm the birds or kill insects that birds depend upon for food. Thus, in my opinion go for the feeders in the winter but, be sure to also focus on what you can do in your yard to help and not hurt the birds throughout the remainder of the year.