It takes time, effort, money and dedication to consistently feed birds the most nutritious and most attractive foods, but why do we do it? There are many benefits of bird feeding that backyard birders can enjoy far beyond the company of the birds visiting their feeders.
Seeing Birds by Feeding
The most obvious benefit of feeding birds is simply the enjoyment their company can bring us. While birds will naturally visit any backyard, adding feeders and different food stations will attract more species, from hummingbirds and tanagers to sparrows, chickadees, woodpeckers and other unique species, and many backyard birders keep “yard lists” to track the different species they see right at their doorsteps. The colors, songs, and behaviors that birds bring with them can all be enjoyed by dedicated backyard birders, but there is much more to appreciate by feeding birds.
More Benefits of Feeding Birds
Depending on the number of feeders you have, the types of foods you offer and the birds that take advantage of your generosity, there are many benefits of bird feeding you can enjoy.
- Education: Feeding birds can be a fascinating educational activity for all ages. By changing feeder styles and food types you can learn more about the birds that visit, and just observing the birds will help you learn about behaviors, identifications, personalities and other aspects of your local avifauna and how birds change season by season.
- Insect control: Birds eat much more than seed, suet, and nectar, and feeding birds in your backyard also invites them to feast on the insects, worms, snails, and spiders in your landscape. This can provide ideal organic pest control with little need for toxic insecticides or other harmful chemicals.
- Flower pollination: Not only do birds eat insects that can help keep your landscape healthier, but they assist with flower pollination. This can result in more luxuriant, full flowerbeds and beautiful bird-friendly landscaping with less overall effort for gardening.
- Weed control: Many small birds such as sparrows and finches eat tremendous amounts of seeds, especially from seed-bearing flowers or weeds that might be undesirable in your landscape. Feeding these birds will also attract them to the natural food sources in your landscape, including weeds.
- Photography: Photographers with an interest in nature subjects can enjoy a proliferation of poses right outside their windows when they feed the birds. Painters and other artists can also similarly benefit from feeding birds.
- Interacting with nature: For many urban birders, the birds they see at their feeders may be the only wild animals they have the chance to interact with. This can be an ideal activity for senior citizens, individuals with limited mobility or young children to get their first exposure to nature.
- Outdoor pets: As you become more familiar with your backyard birds, it is possible to begin recognizing individual birds by their unique markings or personalities. These “outdoor pets” can be very enjoyable, without the extra costs of extensive veterinary care, housing and training that more traditional pets will require.
- Offering a helping hand: While feeding the birds brings backyard birders many benefits, it also benefits the birds by replacing food sources that have been destroyed by development. When homes are built and landscaped, birds lose nesting spots, shelter, and natural food sources, but proper feeding and bird-friendly landscaping can help replace those resources so the birds and birders can live together in harmony.
Make the Most of Your Feeding
To make the most of all the benefits of feeding birds...
- Fill feeders with the most nutritious foods for birds, varying the offerings seasonally to meet birds' different nutritional needs all year long, including during breeding season and migration.
- Choose birdseed and other foods carefully to select high-quality options that will attract more birds and keep them coming back for more meals.
- Offer a variety of foods including nuts, suet, nectar, and fruit to attract different species with different dietary needs and feeding preferences.
- Clean and sterilize bird feeders regularly to avoid spreading diseases among the individuals of your backyard flock, and always be sure feeders are in good repair.
- Choose different bird feeder designs to accommodate birds' feeding preferences, and take steps to accustom birds to each new feeder you introduce.
- Take additional steps to create bird-friendly landscaping and protect backyard birds from cats and other predators so they will feel welcome and secure in your yard.
- Use baffles and other means to protect your feeders from non-bird guests, including squirrels, raccoons, mice, bears, and other wildlife.
By understanding the benefits of feeding birds and taking steps to appreciate all those benefits, backyard birders can thoroughly enjoy every bird they feed.