Feeding native birds
Most of us love to have birds visit our gardens, but sadly feeding native birds can cause more harm than good. If you love birds, plant a native garden that provides them with habitat and natural foods.
Provide a bird bath, keep it clean and replenish with fresh water daily.
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?
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 the veggies. Unfortunately, artificial feeding has many adverse effects.
Most birds eat a highly specialised balanced diet. When we feed them it increases aggression and stress as many different species try and feed together. This wouldn’t happen naturally.
Increase problematic feral birds, rats and cockroaches, the more food they get the more they breed.
It can spread disease through a concentration of food and birds in large numbers in one place. Bird seed left out in damp conditions rots, grows mould and introduces disease to the birds, and will attract rats and mice.
Feeding native birds results in them becoming dependent on humans and not developing their natural foraging skills, this is particularly so if they are juveniles who should be learning to find their natural food. It can also cause sickness and deformities in young.
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.
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.
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 many kookaburras with their top beaks completely rotted due to meat.
There are better ways to attract the birds:
Native birds are well adapted to their environment; provide fresh, clean drinking water to help our feathered friends.
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.
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 and when planning our garden, remember that birds and native animals use plants not only for food, but also for shelter and breeding sites. Plants need not actually provide food directly, but will attract insects that in turn provide food for birds.