There’s a growing trend in the “not in our backyard” movement that impacts urban and suburban backyard bird-feeding hobbyists alike. In most cases, it’s David vs. Goliath, with powerful and unyielding condominium associations ordering the removal of bird feeders from the entire property. Even private landowners can feel under siege by anti-bird feeder activists driven by fear or myths about the “danger” of feeding birds and wildlife in their backyard.
Bird lovers who live in an apartment or condo (or even dorm) want to attract birds to their yard or window, but often run into opposition from the neighbors and management.
Five myths/misconceptions about feeding the birds
Although passionate and emotional arguments may be the initial response to a “take down your feeders” order (often pitting neighbor against neighbor), real-world situations have proven that there are strategies that will help you keep your backyard habitat (and neighborhood relations) intact.
Bird feeders attract rats and reduce
Rats and mice populate homes, garages, outbuildings, meadows, parks and even vehicles! They have thrived alongside human habitation for thousands of years.
While they may be most visible when visiting your backyard during the day, bird feeders are not necessary for their survival. The number one resource required for rats and mice to survive (and thrive) is water. If your neighborhood has a dependable supply of water (ponds, catch basins, sewers, streams, puddles, kiddie pools, rain barrels, etc) there’s a good chance that hundreds of rats and mice already call it “home.”
Spilled seed and/or seed husks on the ground are an eyesore, spread disease and are unsanitary
Old seeds or husks on the ground under bird feeders are unattractive and can be a breeding ground for mold growth, but the seed husks themselves do not harbor disease or infection. With a wide variety of “no waste” seed mixtures readily available at super stores, garden centers and online, it is now possible to eliminate the problem of “old seeds” on the ground entirely.
These special blends of “no waste” seed are more expensive than the traditional “bulk” blends (which contain mostly undesirable seeds like millet and striped sunflower), but the investment up front pays off in less mess, a neat and tidy yard and less evidence that you feed the birds.
Another advantage of these expensive seed blends is that the anti-feeder folks will see that you are willing to “put your money where your mouth is” in order to alleviate some of their concerns.
Birds won’t learn how to fend for themselves
Attracting birds to your backyard with a dependable food source does not create a generation of feathered friends looking for “handouts.” When a feeder is removed, birds don’t drop dead due to laziness, either! Even though people find a “free lunch” more than enough reason to go against their instincts, there’s no evidence that birds share the same mindset.
Offering food in late fall and winter will “trap” migratory species, and they’ll die from exposure to wintry weather
Having an abundant food source doesn’t change the fact that the signal to “migrate” comes from changes in the amount of daylight, whether its a north-south journey in the fall or a south-north trek. During the spring migration, birds follow the food source (insects) north. As plants and trees “go to seed” in the fall, the birds head south.
Pigeons, starlings, crows, etc. are loud and messy birds and their waste products damage the area and foul car finishes
There’s no argument there. If your main interest is in attracting large, loud and messy flocks of what some considered “rats with wings” to your neighborhood, you’ll need more than these tips to change the opinion of your neighbors. However, if you’re not already overrun with flocks of starlings or pigeons, it’s not inevitable that they will find your backyard in the future. In fact, careful seed choice, effective bird feeder design and putting your backyard cafeteria on a schedule can prevent the “less desirable” elements of the neighborhood from taking over.
Visit specialty stores in your neighborhood, or get tips and suggestions from online nature-oriented blogs and communities.
(c) 2010 kathy vespaziani