Bird feeders: what is the verdict?

May be dated, but some organizations suggest removal or disinfection of bird feeders due to avian flu outbreaks: Experts suggest Canadians put away their bird feeders amid rise in avian flu

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Good point! :+1: As a matter of fact, I didn’t but I should have. Actually, I have no observations whatsoever of ticks, not even of those that I find roaming on myself…

Which reminds me of an observation (of a non iNat type) a couple of years ago. While in the park walking the dog, we paused on a bench in the shade. Out of the corner of the eye I noticed some movement on the footpath’s gravel. Turned out it was a tick making its way toward my right sneaker. It wasn’t moving particularly fast, but nice and steady. When it reached me, it climbed up the fabric towards the ankle – which is when I stopped its progress. So much for the tale that ticks let themselves fall onto their prey from above.

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Regarding House Sparrows, I think human altered habitat rather than backyard feeding is what keeps them dominant. Like others, I feed only in the winter and use sunflower and safflower seeds rather than millet. When they get too dominating I stop feeding for a while.

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One of my earliest memories is of standing at my grandmother’s kitchen window, watching big yellow birds (Evening Grosbeaks, I now know) visit to take sunflower seeds. I had to stand very still so they wouldn’t be scared. They landed within a foot or two of me to feed and squabble. Wow.

I’m sure this is one of the experiences that led to my becoming a biologist.

So I say, feed the birds, for yourself and for young people in your life. Individual birds will benefit, too. I use shelled sunflower seeds (sunflower hearts or chips) to minimize (not prevent) mess. I take down a feeder and clean it from time to time, also, to reduce disease transmission.

Another benefit of feeders: Lots of photos for iNaturalist!

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I would just like to suggest that the last word on feeding birds is not a scientific one, for the value of the human/bird interactions involved in feeding cannot be measured in agreed-upon units. Some may consider the activity to be pointless for all parties concerned, while others may find it intensely fulfilling for the human involved. Nor is it necessarily pointless for the birds themselves. I recently read of some crows in California that presented a young girl with shiny “presents” as a sort of corvine thank-you gift for the fact that she was feeding them. The crows, it turns out, are quite happy with this bird-human reliationship and are taking practical steps to keep it going. Perhaps birds are meant to evolve in this close relationship with human beings. Who’s to say for certain? So, do the intangible benefits of bird feeding outweigh any practical concerns? That question ultimately requires a philosophical answer since no one can say for sure what is “Natural” with a capital N when it comes to interactions between two sets of evolving creatures: one with self-consciousness and one without. Are the self-conscious creatures supposed to sit back from the rest of nature and say, “Go ahead and evolve without us!” Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s not a question for science, it’s a question of belief, conscience and one’s personal philosophy or religion. Such views may (and should) be informed by “the data,” but the data alone gives us no ultimate answers, for the answer depends crucially on the answer to other questions like, what is life all about and how am I to relate to other conscious species?

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The birds need to wear face masks and practice physical distancing.

My housemates keep a shallow terracotta dish of water in the backyard. Every day I see a House Sparrow drinking from it. We have plenty of native birds around, but they do not come to drink.

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Could only find these N95 respirators, but I think they’re only good for Ducks (Anatidae)?

Don’t want to take away from the many good points that you make in the reply, but after reading that, I immediately thought: Did a bird write that?

Good points. I would submit, however, that the belief that humans are the only species with self-consciousness is yet to be proven.

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That’s exactly what my cat said.

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Indeed. My cat hated being laughed at. He had a tiny sense of humor.
My dog would hide under the furniture until the fur dried after a bath. He must’ve known he looked ridiculous when wet.

I’d be surprised to meet a cat with any sense of humor at all.

The most likely candidate would be… us. At least, that’s what Jamie Oliver and others are proposing:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9438410/Jimmy-Doherty-Jamie-Olivers-mate-says-barbecue-grey-squirrel-this-summer.html

I’m old enough to remember when there weren’t any grey squirrels in Niagara here. I remember being excited when these ‘huge’ new squirrels started to show up. And the red squirrels vanish, of course.

Most of our pioneer generations took advantage of this natural supply, I’m sure. But, they’re also the same who wouldn’t dream of eating lobsters. Food prejudices are very much culturally evolved.

I’m also reminded about reading an account from back in the 1800s times when grey squirrels would migrate en masse when the oak cycles starved them out of their normal homes. The last notable one of modern times was in 1968.

Unless you count my backyard.

My husband was dozing in his chair … and the cat walked across … and carefully patted him on the head. That woke him up :rofl:

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Reclining is a minor hazard here. One of my cats will launch herself and land full weight on the chest and stomach, then enjoy the resulting, “OOoofFF”.

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I did have one! He had a wicked sense of humor about playing “ bait the dog”!

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National Geographic just posted this piece on bird feeders, for what it’s worth.

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Oh, of course they have a sense of humour! Some more than others, just like humans. I have had the honour of sharing my abode with some very remarkable individuals that even played tricks on me (and were most obviously having a great time). (fondly reminiscing…)

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