Feeding Wild Birds in a Responsible Manner

The US Department of the Interior released a fresh assessment of the national “State of the Birds” on March 19, 2009. According to the paper, “Birds are indicators of our country’s ecological and cultural well-being.

The findings are sobering: bird populations are falling in numerous places, signaling the poor health of our ecosystems.” This is a frightening report, especially given that conservation efforts have been ongoing for at least the last 50 years (since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring). Our conservation efforts were too little, too late.

According to the report, 75 million Americans, or one out of every four, are birdwatchers. More than 50 million people feed wild birds. Despite the overwhelming public interest and support, habitat degradation continues unabated in the hurry to develop a new property. Natural nesting habitats and food supplies are being depleted.

The single most important thing we can do as individuals to help reverse the loss is to restore the natural habitat on our property. Participate in the management of your habitat proactively and responsibly. When you manage a piece of land, you’re also managing habitat and wildlife.

Why Do People Feed Wild Birds?

People feed wild birds for a variety of purposes, including amusement, relaxation, nature observation and/or study, and genuine support for local populations. As previously noted, many wild bird populations are in decline. Habitat loss, environmental degradation, seasonal variations, local weather, climate change, insufficient forage, and other factors have all contributed to the reductions.

Wild birds have a rather high metabolic rate, which necessitates a steady supply of food. Many birds perish in the winter, during droughts, cold spells, extended rains, and any other conditions that restrict feed availability, causing stress, frailty, disease and parasite resistance, and famine. When natural food sources are few, feeding wild birds can help keep populations afloat.

Wild Bird Feeding Preferences

Whether your objective is to simply attract wild birds to a feeding station for your enjoyment or to give birds with the minimal nutrition they require for optimum health and reproduction, bird feeding preferences are critical in selecting which food products will best satisfy your requirements.

Wild birds can be classified based on the sort of food they consume. This does not necessarily imply that granivores (seed-eaters) eat just seeds. Seed is preferred by granivores over other meals, and specific varieties of seed are preferred over others. Because it’s difficult to discover food that’s constantly available in nature, it’s crucial to remember that most birds eat in order of their preferences.

While there are a variety of feeds available, feeding wild birds usually consists of only four:

a. Granivores, such as finches and sparrows, are seed or grain feeders. There are a variety of seeds and seed mixes to choose from.

b. Frugivores, such as tanagers, are fruit eaters. For frugivores, there are dehydrated fruit products.

c. Insectivores, such as bluebirds and woodpeckers, are insect feeders. There are a variety of both live and dehydrated animals.

d. Nectarivores, such as hummingbirds, are nectar feeders. There are several commercial nectar diets on the market.

While feeding wild birds, it’s important to consider their food preferences as well as their feeding behaviors when choosing feeders. Some wild birds forage on the ground, such as robins and doves. Others, such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, feed on tree bark. Goldfinches and other granivores feed on grasses’ seed heads.

Bird Feeding on the Side

The great majority of people who feed wild birds are just passing through. Feeding wild birds is primarily a part-time hobby for them and involves providing gifts to the birds and enjoying the pleasures of watching their antics. The casual participant is someone who, while shopping at the supermarket, might grab a bag of seed or a suet cake on the spur of the moment. They have no qualms about feeding wild birds anything other than bird treats.

Birds in the wild are free to forage for their food. There is an entire industry dedicated to serving your demands if you have a casual interest in feeding wild birds. The goods’ main purpose is to attract birds to a feeding place that is designed to provide optimum visibility for your viewing pleasure.

All of the feed products, like seeds, seed mixes, suet products, and other specialty items, are designed to attract birds. The nutritional worth of the food isn’t taken into account. Seeds, seed mixes, and suet products provide additional nutrients at best.

Even if it were feasible to create a seed mix that matched all of a bird’s nutritional needs, it would fail because birds will selectively select just the seeds they enjoy, with oil-type sunflower seed being the most popular.

Seed preference studies have repeatedly shown that oil-type sunflower seed, white proso millet, and Nyjer® are the seeds of choice for most bird species that visit feeders.

Mixtures of seeds

Bird candy is the best way to describe seed combinations. The favored seeds give you a burst of energy but are low in nutrition. Birds, like children, eat what they like rather than what is best for them nutritionally.

When choosing seeds or seed mixes, think about the seeds that will be included. The higher the number of filler seeds like corn, milo, oats, wheat, and others in a seed mix, the more unappealing they are to the majority of birds. The majority of the time, they finish up on the ground beneath the feeding station.

Because of the seed accumulating under bird feeders and the pests that they attract, there is an increasing trend in new housing complexes to prohibit bird feeding. The grading of seeds according to quality and any additional processing such as washing or dehulling the seeds are also factors in the cost of seeds and seed mixes. Premium seed products are cleaner, contain the highest quality seeds, have a higher percentage of the most appealing seeds, such as oil-type sunflower seed, and can be dehulled.

Except for those containing a higher percentage of the more palatable seeds, none of these more-priced, added-value seed mixes made a difference to the birds. They’re designed to appeal to the human market. You need to buy the three seeds separately: oil-type sunflower seed, white proso millet, and Nyjer®. Even millet is debatable because it attracts invasive house sparrows, which should be avoided. Bird food should never be exposed to rain or direct sunlight, as both can cause nutrient loss.

Suet for wild birds comes in a range of sizes and formulas [http://www.aviancuisine.com/suet-vs-vegetable-fat]. The traditional cake, plugs, balls or “berries,” bells, and other shapes are common. Suet formulations include suet including small amounts of attractants such as berries, fruit, insects, nuts, and seeds to appeal to various wild bird species.

While the attractants have a minor impact on the kind of wild birds attracted to a particular suet product, their true impact is on human consumers. Beef fat is the most important nutrient in wild bird suet products. It gives wild birds energy, which they require. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and other bark-climbing wild bird species are attracted to suet cakes and other suet products. Suet cakes for wild birds, like seed and seed mixes, may boost survival rates in the short term and are very cost-effective.

The consumer should look for the softest suet goods that will fit the circumstances at their feeding station when selecting suet products. The softness of the material suggests a low melting temperature. The easier the substance is to digest for wild birds, the lower the melting temperature.

There has been a trend among suet processors in the last five to ten years to manufacture wild bird suet products with greater melting temperatures. This is merely another marketing ploy aimed to appeal to human consumers at the expense of birds’ best interests. Don’t be duped. The consumption of fats with the least quantity of saturated fats and triglycerides is in the best interests of wild birds.

Fat attracts wild birds because of its high energy level. Birds, on the other hand, must invest energy not just to get and consume lipids, but also to digest them. The melting temperature of fat is proportional to its saturation level. The more energy is required to digest it, the greater the saturation and melting temperature.

Bird Feeding in a Responsible Manner

With the increased knowledge that many wild bird populations are in decline, a new sort of wild bird feeding is required. One that takes responsibility for the health and welfare of local wild bird populations, rather than only human motivations.

The most important thing we can do as individuals is to restore the natural habitat on our property by natural landscaping with native plants that provide both shelter and food, removing all alien, invasive plants, increasing natural and artificial nesting sites, and providing a source of clean fresh water, and so on.

From soil microbes to megafauna, take an active, responsible role in managing your habitat and all of the species that live in it. Feeding wild birds properly can help people develop a more holistic view of their local nature, including wild bird populations. If you manage a place as an owner, you are accountable for all living beings who live there, whether they are transients or permanent residents. You are, by definition, a wildlife/habitat manager.

Feeding wild birds nutritionally balanced wild bird feed year-round, maintaining a source of clean fresh water, using appropriately built feeders, and keeping feeders and feeding sites clean are all part of responsible wild bird feeding. Establish a control plan to eradicate foreign species such as house sparrows and European starlings from your ecosystem using whatever ethically permissible techniques.

At the very least, destroy their eggs and nests, and confine cats to the house. Cats are alien species that are capable predators of birds, small mammals, reptiles, and a variety of other animals. Capture and surrender stray cats who wander into your property to the local humane charity.

Encourage all cat owners to be responsible and keep their pets indoors for their safety and the safety of their possible prey. Coyotes enjoy the taste of cats.

Wild Bird Feed with a Complete Nutritional Profile

Wild bird feed items that are nutritionally complete take feeding wild birds to a new level. Nutritionally complete wild bird feeds are fully processed diets developed to meet all of the nutritional requirements of birds. Flours, meals, nutrients, and binders are processed into a desirable shape with a uniform consistency in processed diets.

Based on National Studies Council research, they are created to meet the minimum nutrient requirements of wild birds. All birds should be fed processed diets (at least 50 percent) according to veterinarians and animal care professionals. Birds cannot preferentially select what they consume since a processed diet is of uniform consistency. Wild bird diets that are nutritionally full and processed provide a nutritional safety net for wild birds during seasons of low food availability.

Wild birds with free access to nutritionally full, processed wild bird foods will avoid the nutritional slump that occurs during the winter or other periods of adverse weather when forage availability is hampered. Adult birds will overwinter and begin nesting activities earlier in the season, nest more frequently during the season, lay more eggs per nesting, fledge more young, and nest later in the season as a result. Local populations of those species that use feeding stations will be stable and grow in the long run.

You may experience reluctance in wild birds to accept nutritionally adequate wild bird feed items for the first time while feeding them. Any change, including new and unexpected items that they may not identify as food, makes wild birds nervous.

In this scenario, combining a processed diet with oil-type sunflower seed that birds know as food would usually persuade them to eat. Once you’ve started feeding, gradually reduce the oil-type sunflower seed over time. It’s critical to limit the availability of other foods while providing a nutritionally full, processed wild bird diet.

This is especially true with seed mixtures and suet cakes (bird candies) that are designed to entertain birds rather than meet their nutritional needs. Suet cakes and seed mixtures are nutritionally incomplete, diluting the beneficial effect of comprehensive diets.

A binder is used in most nutritionally balanced, processed wild bird meals. Only a few people employ vegetable fat as a binding agent. The lower the melting temperature of a fat, the easier it is for birds to digest it nutritionally.

Suet or any other binder is preferable to vegetable oils since they are low in saturated fats and triglycerides. Using vegetable fats with the lowest melting temperature that would function in a particular setting or feeder is in the best interests of wild birds.

Year-round feeding of a nutritionally full diet expands an area’s food base, enhancing the overall survival and reproduction rates of many species. In the long run, you’ll notice earlier nesting, higher reproduction rates, higher fledging rates, and higher survival rates.

You should use nutritionally adequate, processed wild bird diets as the main component of your bird-feeding program if you wish to make a significant impact on the health and reproduction of local species.



The report from the US Department of the Interior paints a grim picture of the future of wild birds in America. Conservation efforts have been underway for many years, but they have not been enough to prevent a decline in bird populations. One contributing factor to this decline is the way that people feed wild birds.

Many people enjoy feeding wild birds, and there are even commercial products available for this purpose. However, most of these products are not healthy for birds. They often contain too much sugar or salt, and can actually cause malnutrition.

In addition, bird feeders can attract rats and other pests, which can spread disease. It is important to be thoughtful and responsible when feeding wild birds so that we can help them to stay healthy and avoid further decline.

Suet and seed mixes are only useful as dietary supplements for wild birds. Seed mixes are best used when establishing a fresh feeding spot since birds recognize seeds as food. We propose transitioning to a nutritionally full, processed wild bird diet once birds have established themselves at a new location.

We propose giving seed mixtures as a reward in tiny amounts (no more than can be eaten in one day) on a random, once-a-week basis once your feeding site has been changed to a nutritionally full, processed wild bird diet.

Wild bird feeds that are nutritionally full and processed are an excellent complement to the fight against population decrease in the species that will consume them.


W. J. Whittaker [http://www.aviancuisine.com]

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/W_J_Whittaker/315240



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