The dangers of bird feeding for wild birds

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_Ray
_Ray's picture
The dangers of bird feeding for wild birds

On several of my posts, there has been commetary about the fact that I provide a feeder for native birds and some feel that this is a bad thing.

While pondering and researching the potential background to these views, I came across the following article: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/seeds-of-destruction/5416254.

It's actually a very interesting dissertation on the pros and cons, as well as the unknowns, of feeding wild birds. 

Woko
Woko's picture

I believe there are several gaps in this picture. 

First, I find it interesting that people are feeding birds for conservation reasons yet most of them fill their gardens with exotic plants. So either the hypothesis is incorrect or people haven't made the connection between habitat & wildlife. Or both.

Second, if birds are eating the food offered by humans then they're being removed from their important function of spreading the seeds & pollinating the flowers of native plant species. This reduces the habitat diversity so important for wildlife. 

These issues being the case we need to probe more deeply about what motivates humans to feed birds unnaturally. Could it be that some humans get a buzz from having birds up close & simply enjoy their colors, shapes & behaviors? Or do we want those great close up photos? In other words the feeding is for the humans, not the birds. Could it be that other humans meet their need for control since they're able to bring birds close to them. If so then, once agin, the feeding is for the humans, not the birds.

So when we're tempted to artificially feed birds we need to think first about for whom is the feeding - for us or the birds. And if we're motivated to feed for conservation purposes then get involved in some natural habitat protection &/or restoration.

_Ray
_Ray's picture

From my reading of the article, the author was suggesting that the motivation to feed birds was predominantly about bringing personal pleasure to those who feed. But what was also indicated was that feeding was not necessarily a bad thing and that much is still unknown about the effects that feeding may have. It was also stated that feeding can improve bird numbers and maintain their presence in an ever growing urban environment, which is a good thing.

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_Ray
_Ray's picture

Not trying to be judgemental, but just wondering about what may be right or wrong.

Some vehemently oppose bird feeders and bird feeding in general, arguing that in doing it so makes birds dependent on humans and affects their ability to forage for their own food, introduces disease and generally affects the health and wellbeing of wild birds. This is despite the lack of any substantive evidence, and even evidence to the contrary, that feeding wild birds is detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

Yet there is no such opposition towards nest boxes which, on the face of it, also makes birds dependent on humans and affects their ability to find and build natural habitats for nesting and breeding, and surviving the vicissitudes of life. And by supplying nest boxes, it potentially brings birds back to the same nest/s all the time (making them vulnerable to predators that will naturally learn of the returning trends), it potentially spreads disease (unless there are fastidious people that come and clean the boxes on a regular basis) and with bird boxes being placed along pathways etc, they are constantly being exposed to humans on a large scale (are such birds being domesticated?).

Finally, some here create what they believe are natural habitats, but are they really natural, or do they just appear that way to the devoted gardener? Simply because a plant species has been reintroduced, have all the other associated natural plants, animals and insects been reintroduced as well? If it isn't 'completely' natural, whatever that really means in today's world, are we not modifying the environment and the wild birds to a habitat where we think they should live?


I've been pondering this a bit and can't come to grips with some of the views.

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GregL
GregL's picture

Ray,

I find these sorts of questions very interesting.It is all so complex and hard to know what is best.

Yesterday I went for a bushwalk in the ranges near where I live.It is a nature reserve of bush undisturbed for at least the last 50 years, not very well known or frequented by humans.I noticed that there were very few birds or any sort of wildlife around, which is a comment that often arises on this forum. Of course it was probably due to the time of day and the weather but the fact is that many areas of natural bush do have quite a low density of wildlife, there just isn't enough food available to support to a lot of animals.

My property is about 8km away, on a creek with good paddocks, lots of exotic plants and gets regular irrigation and fertiliser. I estimate there would be at least 4x the wildlife that there is in the natural bush. I don't want to change the bush, in that reserve there are thousands of hectares of undisturbed bush,with a great variety of habitats and plants and animals, overall the numbers of wildlife would be very high, though on a per hectare basis there may not appear to be much.

The question is, am I helping the environment by providing resources to support a great number of native animals, even though it is no longer a natural environment? I do it for my own benefit, I really enjoy seeing so many animals around and I don't want to live in undisturbed bushland, I love the feeling of lushness and plenty I have created.

I don't think there are any easy answers.

jason

Ray, consider tourist fed dingos on Fraser Island.  They pull apart tents, eskies, challenge people for food, and will stalk a campsite looking for it.  This was before the big cull a few years back now.  Not the dogs fault at all, just learned bad behaviour to support increasing populations from over breading due to the endless food sources from humans. Be it lazy camp site maintance or feeding them to get that great shot for the collection, hundreds of dogs were killed.  Better education for humans and their habbits has gone a long way with keeping dog numbers balanced with the available natural food sources left on the island.  Not feeding them is the number one bit of advice, be it actively or passively.

I bought a house from an old lady who fed a clan of butcher birds daily.  Every morning at 7.30, every afternoon at 3, 4 birds would squark and demand food at the rear door.  I played along for a while until it became a pain in the backside. 7 days a week twice a day they were there.  So I stopped and the birds over a 2 week period progressively stopped comming.  The dead tree they sat on observing the neighbour hood still stands, and they would swoop down from it and follow me on the lawn mower getting spiders, moths, and so on.  But with the clearing of the bushland over the road caused the birds vanish.  The remaining neighbourhood habitate just no longer supported thier existance. This habiate is mostly exocits and grass.  

Animals and birds share hollows, probably always have. No one has ever cleaned them out, so see no reason why to clean a nest box.  Like wise if the hollow is a good breeding spot, the tree never moved, so whatever uses the hollow has to deal with whatever preditor has realised an opportunity.  Birds deal with cars, cats, dogs, and human interference every day along with its usual daily natural preditors. So finding an oppotunity to breed in a nest box 6 meters above a bike path in a park is most likely a much needed break in the swath of surburbia that keeps consuming its natural home.  

If you don't like that people try and plant indigenous plants, or build nest boxes in an effort to replace, or duplicate lost habitat than that's is OK.  I watch the world around me changing rapidely, and the scientist say its going pear shaped at an unprecendentated rate.  So I try and do my bit and follow nature, instead of the humans who made the problem.  It's about as simple as that.              

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

_Ray
_Ray's picture

Your Butcher Bird example shows where feeding promotes bird life as stated in the article. Perhaps most birds migrate to where there is forest, but those in developed areas then never see them, if there's no reason to stay. Wildlife is adaptable to a large extent, unless we make life impossible for them.

Tree hollows most likely clean themselves via rain and whatever, same as regular nests and some never use the same nest twice. The nest that a pair of Wattlebirds built a few ago in my yard has never been revisted, maybe that's the natural way of birds to avoid the repetition. Nest boxes are fully enclosed so generally well protected. My point was that if bird feeders are bad because they transmit disease, what make artificial next boxes any better?

All well and good to promote plant growth etc, whether native or not, but one attempt over another cannot be held to higher regard just because it sounds/feels good. From my readings and experience, things in the world have been better with regard to pollution, conservation and the like. However, some of our environmental practices and beliefs actually make things more problematic for wildlife overall, such as our reluctance to appropriately burn during the right times of year. The utter destruction that I've seen in the last 20 years vs the previous 20 years in our High Country is very telling.

Humans often mean well but let emotions control their heads, more often than not, resulting in unitended consequences.

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zosterops
zosterops's picture

i think experiments showed Melbourne rainbow lorikeets, red wattlebirds and little wattebirds were sedentary in urban landscapes, meaning they have successfully adapted to gaining all their needs from exotic/non-indigenous native vegetation (and insects thereby supported). 

timrob
timrob's picture

I have to say at the risk of being flamed that one of the great pleasures of life is to feed the wild birds. I do this at work in the morning and when I get home in the afternoon ( butcherbirds and maggies on both occasions). I'm careful what I feed them, and the few minutes of my food selection compared to the 10+ hours of them foraging is miniscule. I find it hard to believe that they are dependant on me or that my food selection is deleterious, given the small fraction of their day that they are with me. 

Dare I say that it is spiritually engaging to have an otherwise wild creature eating from your hand?  Yes I feed the local dragons , worms from our worm farm ..... not quite hand fed but they know when I'm there and seem to appreciate a free feed.

Tim

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

The article is very interesting indeed and it makes me wonder too. But like a lot of the millions of people who feed birds I still do so. Its so infrequent and irregular though. The food types I give them will vary for each species. Sometimes I'll throw out a near off chicken egg or two specifically for the Torresian Crows. The Crows just look at me weirdly but soon take the egg/s and begin to eat them if I am not watching. I think it is just wasteful to throw perfectly near good eggs into the bin when I know a Crow would happily gobble it up. Every single time, though, the birds eat the human food they then immediately begin eating their natural food again or immediately go to bed for the night. 

I see bird feeding as a suppliment to the birds' diets. A very small suppliment. They spend most of their time foraging for food and the few minutes they are observed eating human food is just that, a few minutes out of their entire day eating human food. 

Bird seed is the same. Birds prefer variety of foods in their diet. I've seen wild Suplhur-crested Cockatoos here (a flock of over 100) eat seed from almost every single tree species in town (Tenterfield, NSW), then minutes later a few will fly to a neighbour's bird feeder and eat some seed, then fly back to the trees and resume eating tree seeds. But then there are many a bird species that won't touch human food even if they are starving hungry. Human food probably doesn't appeal to many or most bird species, like the local Wood Ducks, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Silvereyes, Yellow-faced Honeyeater?, White-faced Heron and Masked Lapwings just to name a few.

To me, human food scraps or bird seed is a waste of food but it is also, for the birds, a quick and easy snack inbetween their natural diet. Whatever we throw out into the garden as food waste, or put in bird feeders, birds will find and eat regardless of whether we want them to eat it or not. If its edible birds will eat it regardless. I believe if we humans just alter what we put out for birds to be more natural for them, and bury the rest in our garden for the worms and bugs to consume, I think the birds would be a lot happier and we'd feel better about feeding them too.

It would be far better for the birds to replace every single native plant ever chopped down and add lots of different plant species than to not feed birds. But who in their right mind would do such a thing? Even just growing a few additional native plants in the garden may help one or two species over the course of a few months, when in flower or seed, but the overall state of our country's plant life is devoid of such plant species diversity and its getting worse by each passing day. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

GregL wrote:

Ray,

I find these sorts of questions very interesting.It is all so complex and hard to know what is best.

Yesterday I went for a bushwalk in the ranges near where I live.It is a nature reserve of bush undisturbed for at least the last 50 years, not very well known or frequented by humans.I noticed that there were very few birds or any sort of wildlife around, which is a comment that often arises on this forum. Of course it was probably due to the time of day and the weather but the fact is that many areas of natural bush do have quite a low density of wildlife, there just isn't enough food available to support to a lot of animals.

My property is about 8km away, on a creek with good paddocks, lots of exotic plants and gets regular irrigation and fertiliser. I estimate there would be at least 4x the wildlife that there is in the natural bush. I don't want to change the bush, in that reserve there are thousands of hectares of undisturbed bush,with a great variety of habitats and plants and animals, overall the numbers of wildlife would be very high, though on a per hectare basis there may not appear to be much.

The question is, am I helping the environment by providing resources to support a great number of native animals, even though it is no longer a natural environment? I do it for my own benefit, I really enjoy seeing so many animals around and I don't want to live in undisturbed bushland, I love the feeling of lushness and plenty I have created.

I don't think there are any easy answers.

In answer to your question, Greg, what do you think! I doubt, though, your exotic garden helps the environment but it does help the wildlife. You can tell that by the amount of wildlife that's in it or visits it. Then again, any plant life other than lawn helps the environment by helping to take in carbon dioxide and other elements from the air.

I have some exotic plants in my garden and even though they look pretty they do serve a purpose. Bees and wasps pollinate their flowers, native birds eat from them, etc. All plants help all creatures great and small. One cannot exist without the other. I'm guessing by the fact your garden has 4X the amount of wildlife in it that the surrounding natural bush that your garden has many more different plant species in it than the natural bush. 

I know this might sound a bit stupid but if you really wanted to compliment the natural bush surrounding your area you could actually find some indigenous plant species that are not found in the bush and plant them along the fringes of your garden, or amongst it. Or you could do that with a few existing native species. Like one or two native shrubs then add plant species that should be growing in your area but are not. Once established birds, etc would distribute the seeds back into the natural bush. For example, a native olive, riceflowers, or even wattles. 

You are not the only person, Ray, who enjoys his/her own garden. I love all my plants and just having them in a garden makes me feel happy. I love the sounds of the birds and wildlife that's in it or visiting my garden strip. My garden is not habitat material yet nor is is lush and green either as is it basically only one or two plants deep and none of them are mature plants. But that never stops the wildlife from checking it out to see if it is a good place for a nest or just somewhere to eat. I also like to grow my own vegetables and that alone can benefit other plants by creating shade for the more delicate plants (native and exotics alike) and helps the insect life out too. I'm currently trying to get fungi to grow in my garden.

Almost 100% of what us humans eat comes from exotic plants. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

_Ray
_Ray's picture

Whether feeding native birds is condoned or not, we have a bunch of feathered friends; King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Magpies, Bronzewing Pigeons, Kookaburras, Wattlebirds, Blackbirds and ocassional Galahs and others that consider our place a home or a safe place to visit. The birds all know us and some quite literally talk to us. I have no remorse with making them feel welcome.

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Woko
Woko's picture

Clearly, many folk get a lot of enjoyment from artificially feeding birds. If this behaviour is benefitting natural ecological processes then, because so much of our natural ecology is being destroyed by humans, this is all to the good, I would argue. But because the feeding is artificial it cannot be benefitting natural ecological processes by definition. However, I appreciate that not everyone places a high value on ecological preservation or restoration. This, I believe, is unfortunate because we depend on natural ecologies for our own well being as a species.

To gain an appreciation of this we only need to consider the recent discovery of Russian Wheat Aphid in wheat crops in areas of SA & Victoria where extensive bushland clearance has occurred such that there are few natural predators to control this extreme threat to a valuable part of our economy. Would it be better to artificially feed what birds remain in these areas or to restore the natural ecologies & allow the birds to consistently perform their natural function of preventing insect populations from becoming totally out of balance. 

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I think you're trying to convince the wrong people here, Woko. Sometimes you just remind me of Homer Simpson pulling out his own hair and having only 3 strands of hair left. We all know on this forum what should be done to correct things in nature, to restore the balance. I often think your "Voice" could be put to better use. Have you ever thought of running for office? Make a difference. I'd vote for you!

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

_Ray
_Ray's picture

Introduced species is one thing, supporting natural fauna and flora is another. The problem that I've noticed with some on this forum is that they consider that there is only 'one' right way to do things and anything contrary is utterly wrong, no compromise whatsoever. Some also appear to 'assume' to know what the situation is with other people's environments, without ever experiencing those environments. How many here actually have the qualifications and experience to make irrefutable statements about what is right and wrong for every locale in Australia?

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jason

Ray, you may as well man up and say Woko and I.

I think however the "I" culture society has created will do whatever it feels like.  It's a bit like "becaue you deserve it", and there has never been a race on earth more deserving than humans.   Distruction of natural habitate is the same weather it's at Cape York, the Victorian High Country, or Ningaloo Reef.  To broard acre clear natural bush for sparcly populated cows, or to call brumbies part of the natural ecology because 150 years has passed and it's to expansive to catch and kill them, or build a resort on perhaps Australia's most beautiful reef shows a lust for money and an arogance only humans are cabable of achieving.

It does't matter weather it's in my part of the counrty or your part, it's the same.  Many just go along with things because it's easy. However to have a bit of passion and argue it's wrong to keep taking what was pretty much a virgin country to arguably a trashed one in just 227 years is not such a bad thing.  You have issues with National Parks, I will assume over access.  But they may well see you as one eyed if you want more. I don't like it either, but I have been convinced by Greg L and Woko it's not such a bad thing afer all.  Loosed up, you never may know what might happen.  

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Woko
Woko's picture

Thanks for your vote, Shirley. That's one - which might have been enough to get me a Senate seat under the old rules. Not now, however. 

The problem with compromising the environment, Ray, is that it would be contributing to the further horrific destruction of the natural environment. From my perspective, which is partly determined by my Advanced Certificate in Natural Resources Management & partly by my 30 years of ecological restoration on almost completely degraded land, compromising the environment is leading us further down the track of destruction for Homo Sapiens.

I appreciate that there are few who hold this perspective, preferring to, as I see it, risk the future for our species as well as all other species, particularly those species on which we depend. 

Far be it from me to say that those who hold a different view from mine are wrong. Rather, they have a different view to which they're perfectly entitled. They have the right to argue their case just as those with alternative views have the right to argue theirs. 

I have to agree with Jason that broad ecological principles apply to any location.

_Ray
_Ray's picture

I have been travelling the High Country for over 40 years and it is not trashed, but it is not as well as it was when access was more open. In some cases, previously closed tracks are being opened up, as whatever the environmental department calls themselves nowadays, are unable to maintain access routes to all areas. They are encouraging 'adopt a track' policies to get more 4WDrivers involved in keeping things open.

The major thing that damages the High Country is bush fires and that has become progressively worse due to lack of appropriate burning. When fires start, they are far more ferocious now than years back when the Forests Commission was in charge of most areas. The armchair environmentalists, who never venture beyond the city limits, are the main culprits that cause destruction of the environment by pushing for policies that never consider the unintended consequences.

I’ve managed environmental surveys in the past, across Australia’s East coast, from Far North Queensland to Victoria and have seen first-hand where claims of widespread destruction have been utterly debunked and the opposite to be the case. People gain an impression that things are bad from a very narrow point of view and often limited information, or from people pushing an agenda, and come to the belief that things are bad.

Life is not black and white, and you don't have to subscribe to one particular ideology to be a friend of the environment. If you own a car, a house, TV, computer, mobile phone etc, buy your food, buy your clothes, and so on, you are part of the problem. Trying to convert a backyard into a semblance of what you think is a 'natural habitat' is not going to alter things. You are still part of the problem.

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GregL
GregL's picture

Shirly,I do try to include local native plants in my garden, I collect seed from the bush, germinate it and grow the plants as tubestock.Many native plants will not survive in a garden situation, they won't tolerate the irrigation and fertiliser. Many of the plants that grow in wetter, more fertile situations have been lost because because these are the first places that were cultivated or drained by early settlers. As a result we are often left with the plants that tolerate poorer situations because these are the places that weren't of interest to farmers. generally in most settled areas it is hard to know what the original flora was because the environment is so disturbed.

I am not in favour of allowing access to native bush for 4wd enthusiasts, these people generally cause a lot of damage, likewise hunters. Areas that are already accessible are more than sufficient. If people want access to other bushland  areas they have legs that will get them to most places.

_Ray
_Ray's picture

GregL wrote:

I am not in favour of allowing access to native bush for 4wd enthusiasts, these people generally cause a lot of damage, likewise hunters. Areas that are already accessible are more than sufficient. If people want access to other bushland  areas they have legs that will get them to most places.

The vast majority of 4WDrivers cause no damage, the same as hunters. What feral animals? The vast majority respect the bush and want to go back time and again. And what is 'native bush' that you speak of?

And that age old statement about just walking in. Do you ever think about the aged, the disabled, the young? There is no way that most can simply 'walk' into areas that may take hours to drive to on a good day and who wish to stay there for several days.

It's posts like these that show that people have absolutely no idea of reality and likely have never ventured beyond the city limits.

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GregL
GregL's picture

_Ray wrote:

The vast majority of 4WDrivers cause no damage, the same as hunters. What feral animals? The vast majority respect the bush and want to go back time and again. And what is 'native bush' that you speak of?

And that age old statement about just walking in. Do you ever think about the aged, the disabled, the young? There is no way that most can simply 'walk' into areas that may take hours to drive to on a good day and who wish to stay there for several days.

It's posts like these that show that people have absolutely no idea of reality and likely have never ventured beyond the city limits.

Well I live in the country and know all about what happens. Around here 4wds get all the access to bush they want because they rip gates off if anyone tries to lock them out. There are issues of noise, erosion, litter. Actually trail bikes are a bigger problem because they modify their mufflers and make terrible noise that has a real impact on wildlife. Motorboats and jetskis are just as bad.

There are already plenty of places that cars have access,we don.t need any new areas. I walk a lot and see plenty of disabled people out walking. I'm not aware that the disabled lobby are asking for more 4wd access to bushland. Humans already have such a huge impact on the environment, it is just selfishness to seek more access. The only good thing about 4wd owners is that most of them are too lazy to go far off the beaten track.

GregL
GregL's picture

My biggest problem with 4wds is the contribution to carbon pollution and global warming of these heavy,thirsty vehicles. We have known for a long time that we need to reduce the fuel consumption of vehicles but the 4wd lobby has too much political power and politicians are afraid or unwilling to do anything about it. It shows how selfish and inconsiderate many Australians are that they choose their own convenience over the health of the whole planet.You can talk all you like about the impact of modern living but no-one needs to drive a big thirsty car around, there are plenty of other options. At some stage we will have to bite the bullet and mandate compulsory vehicle emission standards, there really is no avoiding it when many cities are faced with inundation in the next century, but 4wd owners will resist with their last breath.

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Guys, please calm down.  Look, we all know our country is f---ed and everyone is to blame. It is just the way our society in Australia is structured and the way "progress" has developed that has caused these mentalities of it's citizens to behave the way they do. We need to change things in our country and bring back respect for all life and bring back appreciation for the environment within every single citizen of our country, including the politicans. We need to make everyone care, somehow. 

We all think differently and we all have different opinions. That's what makes us human. Respect each other's opinions and beliefs but challenge each other to grow as an individual rather than be defensive. Instead of argueing with each other let's put our heads together and come up with a solution to this major problem that our planet and wildlife and we humans face. We need solutions so start thinking about solutions.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

_Ray
_Ray's picture

I have always maintained that 5% of 4WDrivers give the other 95% a bad name and 95% of trail bike riders give the other 5% a bad name.

As for access, ACT has virtually nothing, as is the case with NSW, which is why so many comes across the border to enjoy the bush in Victoria. Queensland is also severely restricted regarding access. I've seen simple two wheel drive roads off limits. South Australia has also severely limited access to what are ostensibly two wheel drive roads. And by access I mean getting away from crowds, not just rolling up on a dirt road to camp with a thousand other people and their noise etc. The worst campers by far are those that roll up in their two wheel drives and have no care for anything.

The problem with looking at everything in black and white is that you give no leeway to middle ground. That's when you will never win over those you disagree with because you're not prepared to compromise and accept that they have legitimate claims as well. Bird lovers are not the only people that care for the environment and our heritage. And many 4WD groups and clubs do a lot to maintain the environment and make it safe for bushwalkers, cross country skiers, horse riders etc. Or should they also be banned?

I've been going bush since I was around five years old (going on 60+ years) and can remember those days travelling into the mountains and other areas. I defy anyone who has done similar to say that the areas have been destroyed (other than by bushfires).

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jason

Na Greg's all right. I too own a 4x4, but they never market my land rover defender on its power. Still I have come to similar conclusion as Greg. 4x4 in particular and the motor industry in general need to get over power. In 4x4 land most people load their truck up with so much weight from accessorising it they then need to do motor mods to make and already thirsty car even thirstier to make it move again. Actually just yesterday I emailed Ford regarding when are they planning to release an electric small wagon for my wife and families needs. I too would love my defender to be electric.

I have driven the thing extensively over the country looking for adventure and forfilment. But in time, perhaps age, I am finding a growing interest and satisfaction in trying to better and understand my little part of the world. Internet, 360deg cameras, better technology allows me to travel from home. Its safer, cheaper, and I can do it for as long or briefly as I like. And its only going to get better. It also allows people to be desktop environmentalist as well, as its possible to get both sides of the story usually. I would classify myself as a regular or heavy outdoor/ national park user. But from those experiances I can't concur most people do the right thing. My guess is 25 to 50% do the right thing, the rest have no more respect for it than its simply there them and them alone. They may talk about love the bush, but show little. Especially if it comes to them missing out, paying, or having to do anything from the norm. The current trend of nibbling protected boundaries, no talk of expanding protected lands, and ferral and human ever increasing numbers and usage; I can see and accept national parks being locked for all. All but the native fauna and biodiversity we are going to need big time if we keep tracking our current path. I now spend my outdoor time on private bush ventures. From what I see there, they too are on an unsustainable path. Few have small fires. Many must have it going all weekend for I'm sure is only because they can. Many drive where they feel, and why put it in 4x4 when you can flog it to the top in 2x4. Some still feel the need to park a vehicle in a river. On and on the poor behaviour goes if you pay attention. So I don't think Greg is out of line, I'd say in touch really.

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Ray, I understand what you are saying and I agree with it. I'm 50 and I spent most of my life in South Australia and have seen a lot of the country there but not all of it. I've been to Victoria just twice. I've travelled through Queensland just once. I've never been to Sydney, Brisbane nor to any of the other states/territories I mentioned above. I've seen things that most city folk have never seen. I've experienced things in 3 states that a lot of people would never experience. I've lived in various accomodations, including caravans and a shack, and know a bit about the activity of jetskiers along the backwaters of the Murray River, and the mentality of bee keepers and wheat growers, and now loggers. I've had dealings with shire councils and a lot more. All I'm saying is each and every one of us has had their own experiences with things. I'll happily admit I don't understand why people are so destructive nor why they think like that. Have they given up? Have they lost respect for themselves and others? There just has to be answers to all of our questions. Without answers we can't find solutions.

My 3 pet peeves, moreso than logging, in this country are jetskiers; dirt bikers; and those f---wits who churn up our beaches in their f***ing cars. The damage these people do is so destructive to the environment, and displaces the wildlife to avoid the areas where these human activities happen. 

I think we need to look at the impact our "hobbies" have on the immediate environment and change it. Here is just one example, insignificent as it may seem:

When someone goes bushwalking and they decide to unlawfully uproot a plant and take it home; they should be made to replant 2 new seedlings of that same species in the immediate vicinity of the plant they removed, and then keep the seedlings watered until they have established or they are 3 years old. Seriously, people would stop taking home plants from the environment if they were forced to do that for the next 3 years as their punishment. 

I have been guilty of doing this in the past. I'm sure we all have. As humans are so destructive I think there should be laws set up in place to make us pay for our destructive activities that enhances the environment to create genetic diversity within it. Humans are just as good at creating as what we are at destroying. The problem is our government and our society has taken away our own sense of "being responsible for our own actions". Australia IS FOLLOWING THE PATH of the USA in that sense.

How would you change things to make it better? And why would you do that? And let's get this thread back on topic again, somehow.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

_Ray
_Ray's picture

Unfortunately there isn't an easy, if any, solution for those that wish to be destructive. I've written before about those who treat everything outdoors like a rubbish dump. They go camping and leave a week’s worth of rubbish on the roadside, where there is no rubbish collection. They visit a McDonalds or the like and can't walk a few metres to a rubbish bin, but dump their waste next to their car before driving off. Our nearest McDonalds is around 20km away and just about every night someone gets to within minutes of their home and throws the wrappers out the window. They empty ashtrays onto the ground in a supermarket carpark when there's a bin two metres away. There are no solutions for individuals like that.

On a broader scale, I don't believe that we are as destructive as we once were. Pollution regulations have been significantly tightened up in the last 20-30 years and things are far, far, better now. People are more aware of environmental issues and the need for appropriate management of all activities that affect their lives and the environment. I live in a township that is fiercely environmentally aware and very activist on issues, yet with such things as feeding of native birds (to get back on topic) they have no qualms about doing so. Those disparaging the feeding of native birds would have a very hard time convincing the locals that it’s a bad thing.

To believe that we can revert back to some utopia that no one living today has experienced and can regale to all is folly. There has to be a balance that considers the needs of people as well as nature and the reality is that the needs of people will always take precedence. Those who believe that we need to cull, please be the first to do so and set an example.

--------------------

Thoughts, Musings, Ideas and Images from South Gippsland
http://australianimage.com.au/wordpress/

Woko
Woko's picture

Shirley, there are a lot of folk who would see much of this discussion to be off topic. However, I believe this reflects the fact that we still have a long way to go to improve the awareness that everything is connected. This is one of the principles of ecology.

One of the things that strikes me about our discussion is that there is a huge need to increase humans' sensitivity to & understanding of the natural environment & the critical role it plays in our very existence. So many people, consciously or unconsciously, believe they have the unalienable right to wreck the bush because it's there & because it makes them feel good. There are so many humans on our planet & so many of them believe the natural environment is a resource to be exploited to meet not just needs but wants. I suggest that the impact on the environment of meeting wants now far exceeds the impact of meeting needs partly because of our overpopulation but also because of the huge footprint made on the environment by our modern technologies.  

The middle ground & compromise argument holds no water, I suggest, especially in today's world. For too long those who would protect the natural environment have compromised to those who would "develop" & destroy it - otherwise we wouldn't be having this debate. That latter attitude was so ably expressed by former prime minister Abbott who said in relation to Sydney "It's hard to think that back in 1778 it was nothing but bush." So for the former PM the bush was nothing. It's an attitude which expresses a strong sense of entitlement & one which is held, I suggest, by the majority of Australians who are inclined to go near the bush, that they can do, out of ignorance &/or carelessness, whatever they like in the bush because it's "nothing". I say "majority" because the fact that there is so much concern being expressed about the dreadful state of our environment one can hardly conclude other than that the majority are happy for it be thus. I suggest that even most folk who would express a love of the bush & a need to protect it would be happy to compromise it if it meant they could holiday in a flash tourist lodge in the middle of it.

Others of our fellow countrymen/women destroy our environment quite deliberately. The number of vehicles I've observed eroding sand dunes (in spite of KEEP OUT signs) & driving on beaches where Hooded Plovers are nesting is nothing short of hooliganism. I've even seen people walking their dogs through fenced off, signed areas where these birds are present. One wonders whether Australia's illiteracy problem is far greater than currently realised. So violence on the environment is also a big issue as is violence in the family, on the streets, on our TV sets. The violence industry is huge business so little wonder the environment suffers. It's all connected.

So herein lies the argument to exclude large parts of our natural environment from humans. Perhaps only feral animal & plant eradicators should be given the right to enter it for the purposes of restoring it. To open up our bushland to further exploitation is to speed up our journey to self destruction. If we're to protect our own species we need to reverse our current headlong rush & restore the natural environmnet rather than futher exploit it otherwise we'll do to ourselves what we're doing to other life forms on our planet.

Ray, I share your concern about the increased frequency & intensity of the wildfires afflicting the bush these days. Unfortunately, we've made this ash bed & now we have to lie in it as comfortably as we can. Part of the long term solution lies in ameliorating climate change but fortunately or unfortunately depending on one's values, we're a long way from being serious about this. But to increase our comfort on our bed of ash we need to reduce the number of humans in the bush because of their propensity for lighting fires regardless of conditions, reduce the biomass of feral, annual grasses which provide such a heavy fuel load for fires, stop access of vehicles because they transport feral weed seeds into the bush, & cease, even reverse, the building of housing estates next to the bush.

There are glimmers (this debate being one) that things need to be done. We've left it oh, so late to begin in any serious way but sooner or later we're likely to find ourselves restricted on many fronts as we suddenly become aware that we have to chose between life & death. But the natural course of events will ensure that the status quo is simply not an option.

Woko
Woko's picture

Here & there good things are being done in the environment. However, the article in the attached link is excellent evidence to support the idea that we must halt the intrusion of humans into what remains of our natural environment. http://www.users.on.net/~dld/Urban%20Sprawl/andrew%20crompton.htm. Frankly, we have gone far too far.

jason

Thanks Woko, I only got half way through before I became depressed.  I will read the rest later but the report would mirror current thinking accross the country.

I have to say Ray, if the government allowed it and it was assured, and I did not have a family I might just take them up on the idea of culling.  I often spend my days in a haze, not hard to see the Mt Barker situation every where one looks in SEQ.  Forget feeding the birds, time for a beer.   

Ipswich Shire Eastern flanks

GregL
GregL's picture

The problem is that humans see things in such short time frames. Days, weeks, years, decades,this is but the blink of an eye. Geological time sees things in hundreds, thousands,millions of years. A little while ago in the 60s I was a  young boy,soon a young man taking on the world. Now I am middle aged, my kids grown up, soon I will be old, dead and forgotten. The time span is insignificant. What will be the world be like in a thousand years, if we keep on going the way we are? Obviously it would be a disaster, at some time there will have to be major change or disaster will ensue. If some time, why not now? Humans are great at kicking the can down the road. In the future they will be much better at doing these things, so we just keep on making things worse. There is no excuse for the way we act, it is pure selfishness. What will the world be like in a thousand years? Will there still be kangaroos, cockatoos? Not if we keep going the way we are.

_Ray
_Ray's picture

There are many forms of extremism, some subtle and some that hit you in the face with a 2x4. I've found this site a very valuable source of information regarding the indentification of Australian birds and have referenced it frequently (and will hopefully continue to do so).

The fact that I don't agree with some views or values expressed by some, though still support the overall intent, I'm still ostensibly disparaged. It's a sad reflection of a very bitter and negative environment.

The enemy of your enemy is not your friend. With that I bid you adieu.

--------------------

Thoughts, Musings, Ideas and Images from South Gippsland
http://australianimage.com.au/wordpress/

Woko
Woko's picture

Yes, it does seem very negative, Ray. But I think we have to face the evidence, perhaps with a smile on our faces & a song in our hearts although this is difficult to do at times in the face of what is happening. Keeping home alive, tho', is so important. Without hope we lack the energy to do anything about the environmental hooliganism surrounding us. In the meantime, I trust you will continue to enjoy the birds & do whatever you can to protect & restore the natural environment around you.

SX2002
SX2002's picture

I'm considering a nectar feeder for the honey eaters that frequent our Village...I have planted natives, grevilleas, etc, that will take over eventually as they grow bigger...

We have one bottle brush that they feed from at the moment but to get them used to coming into the garden more regularly I'd like to install a feeder...Would this be considered a bad thing...?

Woko
Woko's picture

SX, you might want to read some of the stuff on this site about artificial feeding. Type in <artificial feeding> in the search box near the top of this page & see what you think.

Wollemi
Wollemi's picture

While always a controversial topic on this site in particular the threads bring out so much information to consider and absorb!

My take on bird feeding is that by planting as much locally native habitat as I can the birds can then decide for themselves if they want to live here. While I have kept a count of species I have identified on our five acres over the last five years and this year decided to keep count of the species by year rather than overall (I have counted 62 species this year since 1st Jan and photographed 48 of them). In recent months it has become a deep concern for me because while I have preserved the scribbly gums with their hollows providing breeding places for many species, I know they are not a favoured tree in our neighbourhood as I watch my neighbours cut them down on their properties and I am now faced with a need to sell and move, when the property is sold and new people take over it is doubtful that we will find people who treasure the birds and trees as we do and so the trees will soon be removed and I guess my point is that we can only control our own piece of the world while we are alive. Undoubtedly as suburbia presses closer to this block the need for land will rise and council zoning will change (we presently have environmental living) eventually the trees will be gone.

All we can each do is be as mindful as possible of the need for habitat, natural foods, and do our best.

thanks for all of the great points made in this thread.

Woko
Woko's picture

I believe you're spot on. There are things we can control & things outside our control. Fretting as little as possible about the latter maximizes energy for the former. 

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I do my best to keep my opinions to myself as I've learnt better due to life's experiences and people's reactions to "my opinion". But I have to ask what is so wrong with creating a garden full of perhaps non-native plants when that is all that is available to you? It is a criminal offense to take seed from wild plants unless you have a permit for it. Growing indigenious plants in the garden is no easy feat. We humans have to remember we are not nature and we CANNOT give any type of seed the same conditions for growth as nature does. Plants HAVE TO ADAPT TO US HUMANS during their first few years of growing else they will die. All our tlc means nothing if nature steps in and kills the plants off with a black frost, snow or a heatwave. Plants can adapt if given the right human conditions in the garden.

Our gardens are not natural. We try to create the impossible and for the most part we are fighting against nature itself just to make plants grow. We humans are out of whack with nature.

But what does it really matter if a non-native or exotic is growing in the garden? Birds don't care about any of that as long as the plant has food available to them and it is edible and not poisonous to them. Removing any of these plants will be detrimental to the well being of all the birds and insects in the area. For example pulling out the 5 grevillea plants in my garden would mean the Eastern Spinebill and a few other birds would have no grevillea nectar to eat, which they depend upon up to 5 times a day to feed from. I don't see any other grevilleas around my neck of the woods and nectar producing plants are rare in town. And what about wattle trees. I've counted less than 8 wattle trees in a 2 square kilometre of my place. Maybe in the bush surrounding town there are more indigenious plants like wattles, banksias, etc but in town it is a different story.  Gone are the days of seeing those yellow paper daisies in town. They've been mowed down to extinction by the council itself. Plant extinction levels are extraordinarily high in Tenterfield, NSW. And so is logging in the surrounding areas by the Department of Forestry. 

In my corner of this f***ed up little world I battle mankind and nature alike. Birds have the same problem as I do. Birds seem to appreciate my garden, at least the honeyeaters do anyway. I don't feed any birds except Australian Magpies. The Magpies even appreciate my garden just for the extra bit of shade alone. I can do without the Magpies begging for food once or twice a day from me but they all appear healthy and none have any kind of disease, so that's something. They are just a handful to deal with.

The problem with creating a garden to suit birds is in the design. The thicker/denser the garden is the chances of more things being attracted to it, including snakes, spiders and cats. I don't see anything wrong with using the wrong sort of plants (e.g. a rose bush) to fullfill a job if it will grow in my area. A rose bush, in my eye, is a plant that gives off oxygen, just like any other plant. I need oxygen to survive, therefore I need plants. 

I used to consider bird seed and feeding birds by hand as artifically feeding them. But artifical feeding is just a term that has no logic in it's meaning. We don't feed birds plastic, do we? Something like Kraft cheese I consider artifical food. When it comes to bird food how do we really know what birds do not eat given half the chance as most birds are opportunistic feeders anyway, just like us humans. 

To prevent disease if giving human type foods to birds simply feed the birds elsewhere. Change the feeding area every month, so the area gets rested from bird activity. Same with water bowls/bird baths. Change the location every two weeks but also let the water bowls dry up so birds don't rely upon the water bowls for water, unless in a heatwave but still change the location once a week. Its common sense really.

The most common sense about water bowls/bird baths is the water has to be fresh water. Birds don't like tap water, it makes them sick. If you won't drink it don't expect birds to drink it. Birds are used to drinking rainwater. If there is no rainwater then filtered tap water left out in the sun for a few days is the next best thing. Then you can move the water into the shade. It doesn't end there though. It never ends.

You always have to keep up with the ever changing environment. The most any of us could ever do is grow a garden or trees in hope they will produce seed so birds can disperse the seed in the future, and the seed will germinate anywhere it can. After thinking about all of this I've concluded we Aussies are doing it wrong. Our gardens get destroyed because noone can appreciate the beauty of the gardens we make. I reckon if we make our gardens visually beautiful to us humans they won't be destroyed in the future. You could spend 10 years growing a bunch of gum trees with a whole heap of native flora amongst it for it to be bulldozed in half an hour. What madness is that? But if you create something beautiful in the way of a specific design with those same said plants, the chances are they will less likely to be bulldozed. 

Our biggest war as humans is not against nature or even ourselves. It is guaranteeing the survival of all plant species on this planet. We have to make plants visually appealling to our own species to guarantee plants' survival. If we have to manipulate their growth and turn them into something they are not then so be it. I've had my say.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

Hi there Shirley. You make some interesting points which got my grey matter working.

Whether any plant is better than none depends on the plant & the circumstances, I suggest.

No plant at all might be better than planting an invasive exotic, for example. I remember my cousin planting horribly invasive Desert Ash on his almost treeless farm. In spite of my conversations with him about the importance of planting indigenous vegetation in establishing a healthier ecosystem he chose to go the invasive route. He said Desert Ash "appealed" to him whereas I would see far more appeal in a healthier ecosystem.

However, the picture perhaps becomes greyer if, for example, the purpose of planting any plant rather than none is to prevent massive soil erosion, for example. But even here why plant something which is invasive? If we insist on planting exotics why not plant noninvasive species?

Where there are simply no local plant species available in a location then the idea of planting something rather than nothing becomes a proposition. However, I'd be surprised if at appropriate times of the year there aren't, for example, some nearby native grasses the seeds of which can be harvested & broadcast in suitably prepared areas of a garden. These grasses might then attract insects & butterflies on which birds depend. Being able to recognise what is a local grass or other plant species is important & it can take time & effort to bring one up to speed in that regard.

The idea of giving plants the responsibility for adapting to the conditions in which it has been planted is ascribing attributes to plants which I seriously doubt they possess. Adaptation takes thousands of years for plants & animals to achieve & some species become extinct in the attempted adaptation process. The more rapid the environmental change the harder it is for species to adapt which is one of the reasons climate change is such a danger to life on our planet.

Rather than optimising the survivability of plants by making them visually appealing to humans I suggest we need humans to become far more aware of the appeal of healthy ecosystems with high quality biodiversity (if that's not a tautology!). Casual observation suggests that by far the majority of plants are not visually appealing but almost certainly each has a role to play in a healthy ecosystem. In any case, to promote only visually appealing plants to ensure their survival would ultimately lead to their doom because they would eventually be devoid of the relationships with other non appealing plants & other factors in the environment on which they depend for their existence.

Yes, massive changes are occurring in our environment for a variety of reasons & how to deal with them is one of if not the most critical issue facing our species.

Rick N
Rick N's picture

Well put Woko. Thumbs up.

PaulN

I realise that bird feeding can be contentious issue in Australia but with so may groups in the Northern Hemisphere actively promoting the pastime, I think the negative stigma attached to it in Australia should be challenged. I've been actively bird feeding for many years and gain great satisfaction from it but always ensure it's done responsibly. There's a lot of info out there for those wanting to ensure that they're keeping the birds' best interests in mind (Good Practice). Perhaps more emphasis on education of the public, as opposed to discouragement, is what's needed.

Woko
Woko's picture

Hi Paul. 

I'm not sure that because artificial bird feeding is a popular activity in the northern hemisphere we should engage in it in Australia. 

One of the reasons I encourage natural habitat restoration as a preferred feeding strategy is that natural habitat provides precisely the food with which Australia's birds have evolved over millions of years therefore it precisely meets the birds' needs & avoids the risk of harm from artificial food. 

I note that you derive lots of pleasure from artificially feeding birds. This raises the question for me: For whom is the artificial feeding? I derive enormous pleasure from watching birds feed in their natural habitats so I consider this a win for both the birds & myself. 

Artificial feeding can also remove birds from their important ecological roles in spreading natural seed & encouraging the natural regeneration of trees, shrubs & other plants in the environment. This is particularly important when we have humans running amock knocking down natural bushland & forests & replacing them with tar & cement. We need more natural environment, I suggest, not less.

So artificial feeing is a complex issue & has much wider implications, I believe, than many folk appreciate. 

Rick N
Rick N's picture

Woko I think you have hit on the common thread that runs through most of these discussions defending bird feeding.

Seems to me it's more about what the feeders get out of the process, as opposed to any positive benefit to birdlife.

In the absence of definative information regarding risk v reward to the bird I would not feed.

I understand the good feeling that comes from the practice, but again this benefits the feeder not necessarily the birds.

Woko
Woko's picture

I share you're thinking, Rick.

Being aware of why we're doing what we're doing is really important. For example, I became aware that one of the reasons I decided to get into habitat restoration is that I was feeling useless in the work I was doing & needed to give my life meaning. Another motive was that I wanted to be respected by people in Birds SA whom I admired because I felt disrespected by my employer.

I vividly recall meeting some people who kept, legally or illegaly, many Australian birds in many cages. As I got to know them I came to see them as folk who needed to control everything around them - hence their need to keep all those birds in all those cages. To my mind it was a sad state of affairs & ever since then I've tried to be aware of why I'm doing what I'm doing, especially in the environment where human impact is so critical.

I could list a number of other motives for my becoming involved in ecological restoration. I also find it interesting to observe the motives for people in Australia to artificially feed birds. Among these, I believe, is the need to satisfy curiosity, an admirable trait indeed but one which can be satisfied in a variety of other ways without putting birds or the environment at risk. But another is the need to control the behaviour of birds who would otherwise be roaming free doing it naturally.

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