Feeding Wild Birds
comments made on this issue from experts in the field.
Keith Kridler in the Bluebird Monitors Yahoo Page
Scotty Scott lived on an old family farm and hand trained dozens of species
of birds to come to him and search for food that he hid in his clothes. He
fed upwards of 200 pounds of pecans each year by hand to these birds.....His
nieces and nephews sold the family farm and he had to move a couple of miles
away....The farm was turned into a lakeside expensive resort, what do you
supposed happened to these birds when they came begging the construction
workers and the new landowners for food! I was able to stand within a few
feet of Scotty and get these and MANY more photos.
One of the questions I once asked school children during bluebird programs
was for all of the children that had "shot & killed" a bluebird to raise
their hands. In almost EVERY group or classroom there were multiple children
OR TEACHERS that had shot a bluebird at one point in their life. One boy
told how "Stupid" bluebirds were and that he could often walk right up to
them with a pellet gun. The other species of birds would fly away but the
bluebirds would let him walk right up under the tree they were perched in so
that he could shoot them....
The part about the Tom turkey thinking his foster parent was another Tom and
attacking him only shows that he had absolutely no fear of a human and
probably would walk right up to the first turkey hunter that he encountered
when turkey season rolled around....
One of my in laws, sister was feeding upwards of 100 pounds of dog and cat
food a WEEK to raccoons, skunks, possums, squirrels ETC. She recently passed
away. She lived on a "city street" at the edge of town. Within a week all up
and down that street these animals began ripping off window screens, pulling
on storm doors. (She had "trained" them to pull open her back door that did
not latch well as she left bowls of food in her kitchen for her pet coons.)
She also allowed skunks to use the pet door and eat in her kitchen.
This ended up being tragic for all involved....You NEVER know how your
neighbors will react to the wildlife you help condition to thinking that we
humans are a food provider!
Posted by Tina
Mitchell in the Bluebird Monitors Yahoo Page
"And what is the normal response for even a nice person when a buzzing fly
gets in their face? You got it; the reflex action is to swat it away."
was in reference to people training wild hummingbirds to sip nectar from a
container in their mouth. When this same bird approaches another human what
We have hard
evidence of this every year at the wildlife rehab center. I can't remember a
summer when we didn't get at least 1 bird--usually in our area, Black-capped
Chickadees are the victim species--that someone had tamed to come for food
and that a person unfamiliar with the bird (or just plain afraid of birds)
reflexively swatted away and into a window, to the ground, or wherever. When
those birds come in, not only do we have to deal with whatever injuries they
sustained but we also have to extinguish that approach behavior before we
can release them--as far away from that responsible party's home as we
legally can. Without any scientific data to back up this next statement, it
seems to me to take much longer to extinguish a bird's tendency to approach
a human once it has learned this than it is to "wean" a hand-raised bird
from expecting humans to provide food. In that latter case, a large portion
of learning to avoid humans seems to be almost instinctive as the nestling
matures, needing only a little help when in captivity (see below). When a
human has overridden that natural propensity, though, it can be very, very
difficult to get the bird back to a normal level of wildness.
Training a thrush to come for mealworms when you whistle isn't the same
thing as teaching a chickadee to perch on your cap brim for seed--at least
for many on this forum. But for others, that is a distinction without a
difference. I know this because I talk to these people who have tamed these
chickadees. So I tend to be hyper-vigilant about pointing out that any taming
can be a problem for a bird. I doubt I change many people's behavior, but at
least I do my tiny part to try. As I said before, any such training is
purely for the human's pleasure and, in my opinion, is not in the best
interest of the bird.
I will step off my soap box, at least for now.
And here is
some interesting information about how rehabbers "wild."
"Also I'm curious as to the point below of "wilding" the birds that are
being rehabbed. What is the procedure to do this?"
Rehabbers and rehab centers have different protocols for this, but I can
share the one we follow at the center I work with. It's primarily common
sense--nothing fancy. We feed hatchlings and nestlings formula via a syringe
(no needle, of course). As they mature, we move them to larger cages with
food they will eat as adults available, while we continue to offer them
syringes of formula, albeit less and less frequently. Pretty much on their
own, they ease themselves away from formula and toward the naturally
occurring foods. However, they often still approach the cage door when a
human hand appears to change out the food or clean the cage or whatever.
Once they are completely self-feeding and still gaining weight, they move to
large outdoor aviaries, where they practice flying and finding food in
places and ways that imitate a more natural environment. In those aviaries,
humans enter at least twice a day for checking their status, replacing foods
and water, and cleaning. If a bird approaches you when you're in the aviary,
you first check to make sure it doesn't seem to be injured or sick. If
there's nothing clearly wrong, you make loud noises, wave your arms, stomp
around--anything to make the bird fly away. For most young birds, it doesn't
take long for them to stop approaching. Our work then is done and we start
arranging the release. Ain't nothin' better than releasing a rehabbed wild
animal in a good habitat and watching it race away from you and into the
next chapter of its life. No telling what happens after that, but we've
given it the best shot we can.
Thanks to Tina
Mitchell and Keith Kridler for permission to reprint these messages.
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