To feed or not to feed, that is the question?

To feed or not to feed, that is the question?

I've been travelling to the USA on holidays for 20 years and everywhere I go I see bird feeders.  This is true in private gardens as well as nature reserves and wetland areas.  The most famous case of  bird feeding was the Bald Eagles in Homer, Alaska - " On the Homer Spit in Alaska, Jean Keene (Eagle Lady), fed bald eagles from mid December through mid April for almost 30 years. She started with a pair and the numbers grew to about 200. Jean passed away on January 13, 2009. She was 85.
   An ordinance passed by Homer officials to ban eagle feeding on the Homer Spit was to go in effect, but an emergency ordinance has allowed eagle feeding to be extended for 60 days following Jean Keene's death. Since eagle feeding had already began for the winter, wildlife officials agreed it might be best to taper off the feedings."  Most nature photographers in North America have been to Homer for this spectacle and many of the famous Bald Eagle photos were taken there.
I was in the Palo Alto Wetlands yesterday near San Francisco ( ) .  They have a large pond where people feed ducks and it is next to a large landfill ( rubbish dump ) which attracts thousands of birds.  
I stayed in Flagstaff , Arizona , last August and I walked around the streets looking for hummingbirds.  Every garden in the street where I was staying had hummingbird feeders and other types of bird feeders.
  Scottsdale , Arizona , which has 200 golf courses ( mostly built in the last 20 years ) all with ponds attracts hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese to the desert.  The water comes from the Colorado River over 1000 miles away by canal.  If you want to photograph ducks close up , this is a good place to visit.
I understand in the UK the Red Kite feeding attracts photographers from all over the country.
My point is that this is not something that's of interest to bird watchers, but of great interest to bird photographers.  It goes on all around the world but not so much in Hong Kong.  Does this mean we are right and they are wrong.
I'm still not sure myself .


I agree it might be a good idea for Hong Kong but this need to be done regularly, and not targeting a sole individual.
At the same time most people still thinks wild birds are associated with avian flu, if birds become so tame and so close to humans, this might cause much disputes in the society. (This is different in Western Countries, like Australia i have been to, people are not so afraid of avian flu and used to feed birds like ducks and swans)

To feed birds is not really a bad thing, like rice in Long Valley and fish for egrets and cormorants, but these are regular practices in a much larger scale than luring a bird by worms solely for photographs.

I am wondering whether the feeders in overseas have been well-studied so that they are providing the right nutritional values to birds. This is the concern for me.


Large populations of wild birds depend on human feeding for survival.
This is particularly important in harsh winter environments where food is scarce.

This doesn’t apply to Hong Kong, but there is some evidence that feeding of birds throughout the year increases bird populations, hence the RSPB changed their stance on Summer feeding. ... ing/whentofeed.aspx

I would argue that anything that increases populations of birds is of interest to birders. Having said this, feeding in Hong Kong is very low down on the list of important birding issues compared to habit destruction.

Using the avian flu argument as a reason for not feeding birds is scaremongering.

Avian flu is largely a disease caused by human farming practices. Exposure to poultry or domestic ducks, is the only documented means of transfer to humans ie I don’t think there has been any known cases of transfer from wild birds to humans without going via a domestic bird population ( - certainly there will never be any cases of Bluethroats or Red flanked Bluetails causing human fatalities!!)

In summary.

Feed if you like, it’s not a big issue.
You are unlikely to be doing any harm.
You may even be doing some good.
Keep your feeding means hygienic – ie clean feeders, trays, pools, bird baths regularly.
Don't pick up dead birds.



I strongly agree that feeding activities that are well-managed would help birds.

Avain flu is not really a concern in fact, but there are still many ordinary Hong Kong People worrying about avian flu from wild birds, but I am hoping their worry would eventually disappear.

I noted that in the code of conduct written by BWS there are relative contents about baiting. I do follows the code and have been using it as a good guideline for birdwatching and photographing activities. On the other hand i think feeding birds can sometimes be good - and i do struggle when i am thinking of the issue. There may not be a clear-cut difference between "baiting/luring birds" and "feeding birds".

Apart from this, feeding wild animals in some areas like Tai Po Kau is prohibited by law, while it is also not allowed in most urban parks ... sgroup_mammals.html ... sgroup_mammals.html
I am not going to comment about the suitability of such laws, but we need to pay attention to the regulations when we feed.

[ Last edited by Beetle at 2/01/2011 22:20 ]