Feeding our feathered friends

Posted by Jacqueline Beggs

New research by Josie Galbraith, Jacqueline Beggs, Darryl Jones, Ellery McNaughton, Cheryl Krull, and Margaret Stanley

PhD student Josie Galbraith measuring urban birds to assess their health status.

PhD student Josie Galbraith measuring urban birds to assess their health status.

People love feeding wild birds, even in New Zealand where most urban birds are introduced species. More than 5 million loaves of bread, 13 million pieces of fruit and 5 million L of sugar water are fed to birds in six New Zealand cities each year. That is almost 3 loaves of bread per person! The food used is not usually at the expense of the household budget as most people are feeding scraps to birds.

As well as putting out food, people like to provide water baths and plant trees to encourage birds into their gardens. Those who live in Wellington (New Zealand’s capital) were least likely to feed birds, but if you owned a free-standing house or a dog you were more likely to provide food.

Introduced birds are probably the main beneficiaries of bread and seed in urban New Zealand since not many native birds found in urban areas are grain feeders. Potentially, this may increase populations of introduced birds at the expense of native birds.

Disease transmission from birds congregating at a feeding site was also identified as a risk. However, given the importance of ensuring urban dwellers connect with nature, we are certainly not arguing that

Silvereye are on of the few native birds in urban areas that eat bread.

Silvereye are on of the few native birds in urban areas that eat bread.

people should stop feeding birds, but improving how they clean feeding stations and considering putting out food more suitable for native species would be a good idea.

Questionnaires were sent to 3000 households in Whangarei, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Dunedin and Invercargill. The study achieved a 27.1% response rate, or 801 replies.

Read the published research online now at Biological Conservation http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2014.09.038

Jacqueline Beggs is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, University of Auckland.


Media links:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/10644341/Kiwis-spend-dosh-on-bird-nosh

http://www.voxy.co.nz/lifestyle/backyard-bird-feeders-spend-millions-study/5/205292

http://home.nzcity.co.nz/news/article.aspx?id=195803&fm=newsmain%2Cnrhl

http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/study-kiwis-love-feeding-birds-2014102208

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1410/S00443/backyard-bird-feeders-spend-millions.htm

http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbnat/45026651-bird-feeding-habits-on-offer-in-study

http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=72074

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/20154420/bird-feeders-in-nz-feed-more-than-5-million-loaves

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