Bird Feeders and the Biosphere

In theory, bird feeders are a pleasant addition to any garden. They attract wild birds and motivate them to stay near the property. Some people would say it makes up for the loss of habitat and food sources due to rural development.
However, bird feeders do have drawbacks.
One important adverse effect of bird feeders is he spread of disease. Bird feeders that are not regularly cleaned and kept dry can fester and provide a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and Protozoa. Common diseases that can be present include salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis and avian pox. Many such diseases can affect people as well.
Bird feeders habituate wild birds, motivating them to stay on a property for extended periods of time. Sometimes, large groups can congregate and become a nuisance. There is a greater risk of them injuring themselves by flying into windows (as they have difficulty seeing glass), and they become more vulnerable to predation, either due to household pets such as cats and dogs, or due to wild animals that have become accustomed to their presence. All of this applies to both seed feeders and drinking stations.
Not to mention other animals may also be drawn to these features, including baboons.
A better solution is to plant natural vegetation that they like to use for foraging, such as berry bushes for mousebirds, Ericas for sunbirds, Proteas for sugar birds, seeding grasses for ground birds and so on. The best way to determine what kind of plants to choose is to observe birds foraging and identify the species that that they show interest in.
There are also many local conservation and gardening groups that can advise on indigenous gardens such as Pringle Bay Rewilding and the Kogelberg (Hangklip-Kleinmond) Garden Circle.

Natural plant growth is healthier for wild birds and less conspicuous for uninvited guests. The addition of a bird bath would also be a more natural option if you enjoy watching the birds in your garden.

By KVET BIO – Christoff Heidmann

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