Adding a bird feeder to the yard is often the first step in backyard birding, but there are many valid, logical reasons to not have bird feeders at all – but it doesn't mean you can't feed the birds! Understanding why bird feeders aren't always desirable can help backyard birders better plan to opt for natural food sources that will entice even more birds than a simple feeding station.
10 Reasons Why You Might Not Want Bird Feeders
There are many reasons why bird feeders may not be right for every yard, no matter how welcome the birds may be.
- Feeders Can Be Messy
Birds don't have good table manners, and a backyard feeding station can be a mess of spilled seed, discarded hulls, shed feathers, feces and more. Some seed may grow into unwanted weeds, and an accumulated mess could have an unpleasant smell.
- Feeders Can Be Noisy
When a flock of birds descends on a feeding station, there is no doubt it is mealtime. Squawks and squabbles can be loud and intrusive, particularly if feeders are positioned near a window and if birds are feeding early in the morning before birders decide to rise.
- Feeders and Seed Can Be Expensive
Not only do feeders cost money, but so do poles or hooks to hang them, baffles to protect them from predators and of course seed to fill them. For backyard birders on a tight budget, the cost of feeding birds can be prohibitive.
- Feeders Require Ongoing Maintenance
Part of responsible bird feeding is making sure feeders are clean and in good repair so they do not present a hazard to visiting birds. Backyard birders with full schedules may not be able to adequately care for busy feeders.
- Feeders Feed the Wrong Birds
Not all birds come to bird feeders, and backyard birders who most want to attract warblers, phoebes, flycatchers, waxwings or other species that don't typically come to feeders have no need to add feeders to their yard.
- Unwanted Wildlife Visits Feeders
Birds aren't the only creatures to get a free meal from a feeder – mice, squirrels, rats, raccoons, deer and even bats and bears may snack from bird feeders, and if backyard birders don't want to feed extra wildlife, they may prefer not to have feeders at all.
- Predators Hunt at Bird Feeders
Cunning predators will quickly learn that a backyard feeding station can be a smorgasbord of prey, and hawks, cats and other predators may stake out a bird feeder in search of their next meal. Some backyard birders prefer not to provide that unwary bait.
- Bully Birds May Take Over Feeders
Some of the least wanted backyard birds are the first to visit new bird feeders, and if backyard birders prefer not to feed flocks of grackles, starlings, pigeons and sparrows, they may prefer to avoid adding feeders to the yard.
- Backyard Aesthetics May Not Welcome Feeders
Backyard birders who enjoy gardening and have cultivated their ideal plant paradise may not want to interrupt the look of their backyard with a feeder or feeding station, and some yards may have no way of including feeders without unsightly poles or other gear.
- Bird Feeders Could Be Against the Law
Bird feeders aren't often illegal, but they can be if local city or community ordinances, home owners' associations or neighborhood bylaws restrict feeding wildlife. Violations could lead to substantial fines and other unpleasant penalties.
But You Can Still Feed the Birds!
Just because a backyard birder chooses not to have dedicated bird feeders, that doesn't mean it's impossible to feed the birds.
In fact, natural food sources are more easily recognized by local birds and may appeal to many more bird species, particularly if one yard provides a wide variety of natural foods for birds, such as…
Minimizing pesticide use can help provide insects for hungry birds, and leaving leaf litter intact is another great way to give foraging birds a healthy, natural food source. Even without feeders, any birder's backyard can be a nutritious buffet that will attract a wide range of birds!
Photo – Northern Mockingbird in Juniper © ptgbirdlover