by Tracie Hornung
At first blush, feeding songbirds in winter sounds like nothing but a positive activity.
But I’ve heard the concern that if you start feeding songbirds in winter on a regular basis, you’re dooming them if you suddenly leave on vacation for a few weeks – after they’ve been “spoiled” by their human-supplied meals.
Another worry is that regular feeding of songbirds in winter may ultimately weaken them. Two studies in Europe and the U.K. have found that songbirds fed all winter produce fewer eggs, have fewer chicks fledge – and those that do have lower survival rates. This article in Cool Green Science explores some possible reasons. But because these findings were the result of only two studies, more research obviously needs to be done.
Regarding leaving your birds for a frolic in the tropics, you can go guilt-free if you can coax a neighbor or friend to feed while you’re gone. Or if that’s not possible, gradually taper off the amount of food you’re putting out before you go. And according to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, birds have adapted to changes in food sources and usually quickly revert to foraging in the wild.
If you want to know more about feeding birds in winter view Cornell’s “Bird Notes” publication on Winter Bird Feeding.