The practice of outdoor bird feeding has seen a vast increase in rural and urban areas in the last decade. This activity consists of feeding wild birds that live outside our houses with the food we get from a food supplier. Many people choose to use a window bird feeder to connect with nature and others to enhance wild bird’s health. But do you know what the real benefits of bird feeding are? Is it perfect for the animals, the environment, and for people who do it?
In this article, I will describe five reasons why you should consider bird feeding as a part of your life.
1. Bird feeding connects people with nature
One of the main reasons people choose to start bird feeding is to interact with the natural world, especially in urban areas where people spend most of their days disconnected from nature.
According to different studies, people are willing to make little effort in their daily routines only to get an opportunity to interact with the natural world. Watching garden birds gives people a feeling of being connected to nature and belonging to the natural world. These feelings promote their conservation and environmental behavior, which usually leads to positive actions towards the planet. Also, many authors have confirmed the physical, psychological, and social benefits of interacting with nature.
2. People that feed wild birds report feelings of relaxation and lower stress levels
In 2016, a study was developed by the University of Exeter (UK) to get to know the reasons that drive people into bird feeding. In this study, 331 questioners were completed by people who did and didn’t feed birds daily. The study revealed that:
- For most people, watching birds in their gardens made them feel connected to nature and, therefore, relaxed.
- These feelings were stronger in people who were around birds for a greater proportion of the day and fed them regularly.
- Maintaining and watching these bird feeders gives a feeling of relaxation, contributing to lower stress levels. These benefits are related to the deep connection to nature that people experience while watching and being surrounded by wild birds.
3. Bird feeding is good for bird’s welfare
Many people choose to feed wild birds in their gardens because they consider this to be beneficial for their health. And they are right! With climate change around the corner and its consequences already affecting many areas of the world, we must acknowledge that bird’s natural habitats have been affected by this phenomenon. Even if birds have been able to feed themselves through nature for all these centuries, they might be struggling now. Climate change brought extreme weather and drought conditions, which have directly affected these animals’ food sources.
A recent study that compares this practice between North and South communities found that there are particular examples of birds that are entirely reliant on supplementary food in winter. Some of these include species from Finland and Canada that without bird feeding may not survive through the entire winter.
Another study tested different health-related parameters of birds that were and weren’t fed by humans through outdoor bird feeding. This study reveals that birds with bird feeding activities showed:
- Greater overall health patterns.
- Lower physiological stress
- Enhanced innate immune defense
that those without bird-feeding activities.
Bird feeding may also be associated with extreme drought conditions that persisted for long periods. This environmental disturbance may have reduced food availability for birds that were not bird fed and, therefore, their health patterns and immune system. However, Bird feeding must consider these drought conditions as expected to increase in the following years as a climate change consequence.
One last observation from this study is that after removing the feeders, the health of birds with and without a feeder history didn’t differ significantly. Therefore, they concluded that birds are using these food sources as supplements but not relying upon them as their primary sustenance. This shows they are not developing a dependence behavior on these food sources.
4. Bird feeding enhances bio conservation
The fact that bird feeding contributes to bird’s health and welfare is crucial for these species conservation. Bird feeding recommended by organizations such as the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO), who promote bird feeding as a “positive investment in the survival of our birds”.
According to a study from the University of Arizona, 1 out of 3 plant and animal species could face extinction by 2070 due to climate change consequences. Bird feeding will be due to warmer conditions, droughts, and lack of available food resources. If we can help species whose natural habitats are being affected through bird feeding, it would lower the number of extinguished animals due to human actions consequences on the planet.
5. Bird feeding leads to community engagement
Many people that practice bird feeding has joined different organizations and projects to share their experiences with this practice. Here, they learn about regional birds and participate in other events that promote this activity and connect people who practice it. One of these projects is Celebrate Urban Birds. This project focuses on understanding the value of green spaces for birds and has partnered with more than 9000 community organizations to connect people to birds and the natural world.
As you may have noticed, all these reasons deeply connected. In many cases, one leads to the other, and all of them lead to encouraging bird feeding. In Image, you will see this connection and a summary of all the benefits this activity has for us, our communities, and our planet.
The fact that bird feeding has grown so much over the last decade shows how many people want to engage with nature and their wildlife. This activity is beneficial not only for bird’s health but also for people’s overall well-being. It enhances the community’s engagement with nature and our planet. And with climate change around the corner, this is already a lot to ask for. People who care for birds care for nature. People who care for nature care for their planet. And this is the society we need to become: where it doesn’t matter whose yard, tree, or animal it is. It is, after all, our planet.