Do Feeders Save Lives?

Do birds really need the food we offer at our feeders to survive? The truthful answer is no when it comes to residents that are here year-round, like the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and others. It does help them out though and they do appreciate it or they wouldn’t come back for more. On average, these birds likely only get about 15% of their food from us. Of course we benefit from their visits too. 

This story changes for lingering birds and those that have gone astray. Sometimes a bird finds its way to our feeders and should have long ago headed much further south. A Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Brown Thrasher, Chipping Sparrow or any of dozens of other migrants could have failed to move on in the fall and have lost the urge to migrate so they are stuck here. There are also long distance visitors that should not have come here at all, like this Harris’s Sparrow from the West. Even southern birds can have their internal compass mixed up. For these celebrities, feeders become more important, sometimes life saving. That’s why we need to keep ours filled, even when activity might drop off in mid-winter because you never know what will show up.

By Brian Morin

Publisher of Ontario Birding News

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