Most people think they’re helping birds by placing feeders around their home or they just simply enjoy watching them. Whatever the purpose, bird feeders can do more harm than good. According to some, bird feeders are even a detriment to native bird populations. An estimated $3 billion dollars worth of food is purchased for feeders in the U.S. every year. This feed circulates around urban and suburban neighborhoods attracting more and more non- native species and pushing native species out. Along with affecting local bird populations, bird feed attracts other critters and poses risk for things like rodent infestations.
Bird Feeders Impact on the Ecosystem
First, lets talk about how bird feeders impact the surrounding ecosystem. Any animal will be attracted to areas where they can find an ample supply of food. Studies on bird feeders have shown that they attract more birds from other areas than places without feeders present. The reason this is a problem is because some of the benefits of birds are that they disperse seed and help keep insect populations in check. Insects also feed on plants which contribute to the pollination process. Affecting the natural balance of insect populations can have an affect on whether native plants thrive and continue to provide flowers for pollination and/or thrive to provide a natural habitat for native birds and critters in that specific area. Natures ecosystem runs the most efficient when it is left to navigate itself without human interaction. When we supply an overabundance of food for animals in our area we are not only feeding local species but attracting non-native species to our area. Supporting natural ecosystems by focusing more on providing natural habitat space for native birds is more effective and helpful then providing them food. Birds will easily find the food sources they need on their own and will thus maintain a balanced populace.
Bird Feeders Impact on Survival Skills
Secondly, it’s worth noting that bird feeders may impact birds in greater way then we realize. It’s no surprise that larger birds will bully their way around smaller birds especially when resources are scarce. With birds flying into areas where more food is available were bound to see a variety of bird species vying over these food sources. With this comes survival of the fittest as the larger birds dominant the smaller species. Smaller species thus get bumped out and are left to scavenge as they are designed for. As larger bird species continue to bully their way around the smaller birds the question poses if more dominant birds will then begin to rely on food sources being providing for them versus finding food on their own. Studies have already shown that bird feeders affect the surrounding ecosystems balance therefore if some species are no longer relying on their instincts to search for food, will their instincts weaken and thus affect their survival?
Bird Feeders and the Critters they Attract
Lastly, bird feeders will attract more than just birds. Any critter that relies on seed as a food source will be attracted to bird feeders. Field mice and smaller rodents are the most likely to get into a bird feeder as they can squeeze into smaller spaces and are amply more nimble. However, squirrels and anything that is attracted to this food source will find a way to get into if it can. The problem doesn’t lie in what critter is invading your bird feeder. The problem is that some critters, like mice and rats, will make residence in areas where food sources are plenty and with this comes the likelihood of infestations as rodents quickly populate and take over the surrounding area. At this point an empty bird feeder will be the least of your worries as rodent infestations can cause a handful of problems around your home and property. Not only do they overpopulate quickly, they are destructive and carry disease.
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