2009-11-19 / General Stories

What To Do With Feeders

Many Texans enjoy watching birds and other wildlife. Whenever the discussion of setting up habitat comes up, the question of whether to use feeders or not is not too far behind. While arguments can be presented on both sides, the issue essentially comes down to a question of proper maintenance at the feeders and the quality of the foods provided in the feeders.

Texas Parks and Wildlife have many programs that depend on the use of feeders. The Texas Hummingbird Round-Up, Project Feederwatch, the Great Backyard Bird Survey and others depend on feeder based information for valuable survey data. What is the avid birder and naturalist to do?

Any time a high concentration of one species congregates in a small area, the potential for infections is increased. Think about taking a road trip with a group of friends and somewhere along the way, somebody starts coughing. What happens next? A week later, you probably started coughing also. The same principle can occur at wildlife feeders if we are not careful. One way to minimize this is to clean feeders and the areas around them thoroughly on a regular basis. Rake the area below the feeders to remove spent seed hulls and feces. Wash and fully dry the feeders and their perches between fillings. These procedures will help to reduce the probability of spreading infection.

Once in a while though, you may find an animal around your feeder that you just feel is sick. Whatever your reason for concern, the wise practice is to discontinue feeding, do a thorough cleanup and allow all concerned materials, including the ground, to dry thoroughly. Since some infections can be spread by contaminated foods, you may also want to replace the feed you have been using. Only then would I recommend resuming your feeding routines.

Another misconception is that “if I use a feeder, birds won’t migrate?” This common question reflects the misconception that birds migrate because of a lack of food. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just look at the hummingbird. Hummingbirds of several species, including the Ruby- Throated Hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds, Calliope Hummingbirds and others, begin leaving

the northern reaches of their ranges in mid to late June and early July. Residents of these areas know that their plants are often just coming into bloom, yet the birds are disappearing.

They are coming

south in search of abundant foods that are beginning to bloom here – not fleeing an area of famine! Keeping feeders active does not disrupt migratory behaviors.

Why should one choose to use a feeder? It increases the probability that you will enjoy wildlife without having to travel from your place of residence. Often, in the dead of winter, properties with feeders are the only locations where there are a variety of birds or other wildlife. Feeders provide you with an opportunity to observe wildlife closely. Often much closer than you would in more “natural” situations. Feeders are often the easiest locations to photograph wildlife.

Using a feeder is a personal choice – there are valid points to be made on both sides of the argument – if you are maintaining a clean, healthy feeder and safe environment around your feeders.

If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.

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