Many of us love to have birds visiting our gardens. Feeding birds only harms them. If you love birds, plant a native garden that provides them with the habitat and natural foods.
Why are native birds important?
Native birds fertilise native plants, spread important seeds and provide an environmentally friendly insect deterrent while helping to maintain biodiversity.
Why shouldn’t I feed native birds?
Provide fresh, clean drinking water to help our feathered friends.
Better ways to feed the birds
Well-meaning humans regularly provide food to wild birds. Many birds are opportunistic and will readily tuck into food that is offered. This is similar to a child happily filling up on sweets and fatty junk food and not eating his veggies. Unfortunately, artificial feeding has many adverse effects.
Feeding native birds results in them becoming dependent on humans and not developing their natural foraging skills. They lose the ability to fend for themselves.
Disease is readily spread between birds as they gather at feed stations. A common example is 'runner syndrome’ or Psittacine Circovirus Disease-- a fatal disease found in parrots, especially rainbow lorikeets -- that prevents proper feather development for flight.
Extra food for one species will result in them breeding more and this creates unnaturally large populations that overwhelm other native species. There has been a significant decrease in numbers of the Scaly Breasted lorikeet. This species is the shy relative of the gregarious Rainbow lorikeet. The Rainbow has taken advantage of artificial feeding and has all but eliminated the Scaly Breasted from urban areas.
Foods commonly offered to birds do not provide a suitable diet. Bread, sugar, honey and jam have very little nutritional value for birds. Native birds do not have the digestive systems to deal with refined flours or high fat content. In Sydney when many lorikeets were found dead, large fatty tumours were discovered around their organs. This was due to them eating too many high fat content sunflower seeds. Minced meat is commonly fed to carnivorous birds. Mince contains very little calcium and when the parent birds feed it to their chicks it causes bone and feather growth problems. Mince also quickly becomes sticky and can lodge in birds’ beaks. WIRES has rescued kookaburras with their top beaks completely rotted due to stuck meat.
Rainbow lorikeets are primarily nectar and pollen feeders, occasionally feasting on fruit when it is available. This diet is full of protein, vitamins and minerals; all the ingredients needed to keep the birds healthy and in peak condition.
The good news is there is an abundance of natural food in the Northern Rivers environment that makes supplementary feeding completely unnecessary. There are ways to attract birds to your garden without artificially feeding them. Plant native varieties. When planning, remember that birds and animals use plants not only for food but also for shelter and breeding sites. Plants need not actually provide food directly but can attract insects that in turn provide food for birds.