The third week of January is when the birds most appreciate homeowners who keep the feeders filled. But is it necessary to feed our native birds with seed?
Back in November, I wrote a controversial column suggesting that we all add more plant material to feed the wild birds rather than continue to fill feeders with bird seed. The reasons are many, but most important is that attracting flocks of birds to a feeder is unnatural and is causing the spread of diseases. It could be that your kind-hearted gesture can actually harm our local birds.
Bird feeders also can contribute to the overpopulation of rats, squirrels and nuisance birds, such as pigeons and starlings. Some naturalists warn that spilled seeds can introduce invasive plants to our environment.
I did receive many thoughtful comments (and just a few bird-brained rants and “cheep” shots) from that column. And so the debate continues. Here are some opinions from readers.
Do not leave seed in feeders overnight (mold forms, and raccoons and rats visit) and most importantly, dip your feeders into a 10 percent bleach solution every few weeks and let the feeders soak for at least 10 minutes.
That will help get rid of the four bird diseases that are being spread from area feeders. The National Audubon Society assures all homeowners that the birds feasting from feeders are enjoying the seed as a supplement to their diet and they will not starve. The only exception is when the ground and all shrubs are covered with snow and daytime temperatures are below freezing. This is when using a feeder that hangs at least 4 feet from the ground and 8 feet from any overhanging structures (to keep the hungry rodents away) can save local birds from winter starvation.