Monday, September 3, 2018

Top 10 Myths About Feeding Birds

1. If you feed birds, they won't migrate and will be caught in the winter cold.

Birds know when to migrate based on sunlight, weather and their natural instincts, that give the urge to migrate. It doesn't matter how much food is available to them, in the bird feeders or where ever, when it's time for them to go, they go. Migrating birds do need to eat though, especially during migration, and if you keep your feeders well stocked, you will get a bigger variety of birds at your feeders during migration.

2. Birds will starve if you stop feeding them in the winter, so once you start, you can't stop.

It is best to keep your bird feeders well stocked in the winter for the hungry birds. You'll want them to think of your yard and garden as a place for food, so they will hang around all year. Birds in the garden are very beneficial and aren't just pretty things to look at. They eat a lot of bugs and larvae that would be eating your garden. So attracting birds to your yard year round is a good thing. If you suddenly had to go away, though, they would find food somewhere. They can range far and wide in search of food, they may have to work harder for it, but they will find something to eat. If you know you will be away though, it is better to arrange for a neighbor to refill your feeders for you. If not, then you may have to be patient and lure them back to your yard.

3. Feeding the birds is really good (or bad) for the birds.

In reality, birds do not need for us to feed them. They are perfectly capable of finding food on their own. So is it good to feed the birds? Well, it certainly is for us, since we get to enjoy watching them and listening to them, not to mention all the good they do in our gardens. Feeding them is also good for them, because they get a better variety of food at the bird feeders than they would normally get during the winter, and it's more accessible to them. It's not "bad" for the birds because birds eat what they like. If the food you put into the feeders for them gets spoiled or ruined, they will avoid it. If you put food they don't like, they will avoid it and go somewhere else to eat. That's a very good reason to use good bird seed mixes in your bird feeders.

4. The bags of mixed seed found at the grocery stores are bad for the birds.

Actually, it's bad for your pocketbook, not the birds, because the birds will just toss out the seeds they won't eat. Bags of cheap bird seed, whether it's from the grocery store or not, usually has so much filler seed in it that the birds won't touch, or it has red milo, wheat and other things in they don't eat and it will have none of the good stuff like, millet, black-oil sunflower seeds, broken peanuts, safflower or sunflower hearts. So it's a waste of money. However, even the grocery stores are beginning to carry higher quality birdseed, with very good combinations of seed, fruit and nuts that appeal to many kinds of birds. Buying bird food at feed/hardware stores or specialty bird shops is usually best, but high quality mixes can be found other places as well.

5. Squirrels and blackbirds won't eat safflower seed.

Many people who feed birds will use lots of safflower seed in their mix, believing that it deters the squirrels and blackbirds from feeding at their feeders. If that was ever true, it doesn't seem to be true any longer. Many people report that any bird (including blackbirds) or mammal (including squirrels) that will eat sunflower seed, will also eat safflower seed.

6. Only one species of hummingbird is found east of the Rocky Mountains.

I'm not sure of where this myth came from and if it were ever true, but it certainly isn't true now. There is a wide variety of beautiful hummers at hummingbird feeders all over the east, north and south.

7. Birds won't eat milo.

I've always considered milo to be one of the filler seed in the cheap bags of bird food, but I've recently learned that in the southwest it is a favorite of doves and quail and some other birds. So whether this myth is true or not depends on where you live.

8. Hummingbird food with red dye in it is bad for the hummers.

The truth about this myth is that we really and truly don't know. There is no proof that it's harmful to the birds, but there is no proof that it isn't either. If you buy hummingbird food ready mixed, then it will probably be red. If you mix your own (1 part sugar dissolved in 4 parts hot water and cooled) then you don't need to add the food color. The red food color really isn't necessary because the red that attracts the hummingbirds is usually found on the feeder.

9. There is a bird feeder that is 100% squirrel proof.

I've bought enough "squirrel proof" bird feeders to know the fallacy of this myth. Squirrels are ingenious, resourceful creatures and when there is a large population of them, and they are hungry, they will find a way. It may take them a while, but they WILL succeed.

10. Hummingbird feeders shouldn't have perches because it is bad for the hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds can feed while hovering, and they can feed while stationary on a perch. There is no proof that the perches are either good or bad. I have feeders of both kinds in my yard and the hummers seem to stay longer at the feeders with perches (I don't blame them, I'd rather sit to eat as well) and the other hummingbirds linger nearby awaiting their turn.

So, in reality, there is no good reason not to feed the birds, yet there are lots of really good reasons why we should. Watching the different species of birds that show up at our feeders and watching how they interact with each other can be so amusing and enjoyable. If the birds come to think of your yard as a haven with available food, they will stick around and come back season after season, year after year. This is a good thing for you, because it means you will have less bugs and creepy crawlies in your yard, eating on you and your garden. If you are lucky enough to have songbirds in your area, then you will have added reason to feed the birds.

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