Five Bird-feeding Myths
Feeding birds year-round is an enjoyable activity for many people that allows them to connect with nature and learn about the behaviour of our so-called "urban wildlife." However, we may worry that our activities actually harm birds rather than help them. Here's the truth about five common bird-feeding myths:
Myth: Feeding birds prevents them from migrating.
Fact: Birds migrate in response to factors such as length of daylight and weather, not because of food availability. In fact, birds need more food during long migrations, so your feeder may be a welcome stop for species you don't normally see in your area.
Myth: Birds become dependent on feeders.
Fact: Most birds use many sources of food and do not rely on just one. If your feeder happens to go empty, most birds will find food elsewhere, although you'll have to work harder to bring them back to your yard. Loss of natural habitat due to human development does make it more difficult each year for birds to find the necessary food, particularly during the winter months, so providing a ready source of seeds, fruits or suet can give many birds a leg up.
Myth: The mixed seed at the grocery store is bad.
Fact: Some mixed seed can be bad, while other grocery-store varieties will provide quality for your feeder; the key is in the ingredients. Filler in cheap feed includes lots of milo, wheat, and barley. There may also be inedible objects such as sticks and empty hulls visible in the mix. These seeds are more likely to attract pesky birds and result in more wasted seed on the ground around your feeder. A good mix will have some form of sunflower seed and may also include peanut bits, safflower and millet.
Myth: Perches on feeders are bad for birds.
Fact: Birds' feet are unlikely to stick to metal perches in winter - they don't have sweat glands in their feet that would produce moisture to freeze onto the surface, and their legs and feet are made of mostly tough tendons that have little blood flow during cold weather. Also, a feeder with perches allows many birds to feed peacefully at the same time.
Myth: Uncooked rice can swell inside a bird's stomach and kill it.
Fact: Rice is a grain that many birds will eat, uncooked, in the wild; they have no trouble digesting it, as they would any other grain. Many wedding parties choose to throw bird seed instead of rice, as birds will be more attracted to the seed and eat it more quickly.