If you enjoy turkey this Thanksgiving, take a moment to think not about the bird on your plate but rather the birds outside your home. With increasing urbanization taking away more natural habitat, local wildlife is having difficulty finding food. Bird feeders have become a popular way for homeowners to help local wildlife and contribute to conservation efforts. But are these feeders, borne of good intentions, actually helping or hurting wild birds? A recent study has enlisted the help of Canadian citizens to find out.
Feeding the Birds, Helping or Hurting?
Conventional environmental wisdom says that feeders in suburban or urban yards help wild birds find food and improve their reproductive success. Recent research has even recommended expanding bird feeder use from just the winter months, when finding food is especially tough, to year-round to help sustain these wild populations.
Feeders may seem helpful, but their benefits have never been scientifically tested against their list of potential dangers. Bird feeders attract predators, create a concentrated wildlife population that enhances the spread of disease, and bring birds dangerously close to collisions with our glass windows. With almost 50% of US households feeding birds, understanding this balance of benefits and dangers is necessary to protect ecosystems that are increasingly integrated with our neighborhoods.