Birds declining: To feed or not to feed?

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

Imagine your backyard with no birds.
Imagine your immediate home surroundings, favourite parks and urban or countryside spaces without black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches.
Unthinkable?
No. Some of my readers report they’re not seeing (or even hearing) formerly

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

Imagine your backyard with no birds.
Imagine your immediate home surroundings, favourite parks and urban or countryside spaces without black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches.
Unthinkable?
No. Some of my readers report they’re not seeing (or even hearing) formerly
common species such as chickadees.
Although such absence once would have seemed unthinkable, our Canadian – Québec – and ergo, Pontiac songbirds are declining and disappearing.
It’s not only sad, it’s bad news for the environment and people.
Report proves decline
The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) website explains details from this year’s State of Canada’s Birds 2019 report. It notes the study “draws on almost 50 years of data to describe the changing health of Canada’s bird
populations. This collaborative report was produced by NABCI, under the leadership of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Bird Studies Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Nature Canada.” (read the study here: nabci.net)
Environment Canada’s Adam Smith oversaw this report, the first such study since 2012. He explained, “There are things we can do in terms of how we eat. Look for bird-friendly coffee, grass-fed beef and sustainable seafood. Support regulatory change that benefits birds.”
“We need to act in a more sustainable way in our working landscapes — agriculture, forestry and fisheries – and fight climate change. Many of the transformative changes we have to make in order to solve some of these problems are actions that have to happen on a systematic level, beyond individuals.”
Notwithstanding the broader scope of legislative change he advocates for, as usual, individuals can make a difference. Case in point? Thoughtful people have
contributed to the recovery of Monarch butterflies, where people residing along
this species’ migratory pathway have planted (or not cut) milkweed, this species’ only food.
Feeding birds in winter
Many believe feeding birds in winter somehow “spoils them” because they should get enough sustenance from the wild. I can understand their viewpoint, but the operative word here is “should.”
Birds aren’t getting enough safe food because of habitat loss, poisons in the food chain, and more.
Habitat loss and thus seriously decreasing biodiversity, is a significant factor in population decline, along with toxic chemicals in their/our environment. If the food for birds is in decline or poisonous (full of toxins), then birds that injest that food will suffer reproductive failures or other symptoms, and/or die. (Insect populations are in freefall, contributing to the 90% decline in barn swallows, for example.) And decline is notable for many domestic residents.
Therefore, feeding resident birds during winter makes a positive difference.
How/what to feed?
Feeders come in various shapes and purposes. American goldfinch, common and hoary redpolls are primarily seedeaters and they easily perch upon and feed from “tube” feeders, which can be filled with Nyger seed, for instance.
Evening grosbeaks, chickadees, house and purple finches, and others eat sunflower seeds on “platform” feeders.
Hairy & downy woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches appreciate much-needed fat. Blocks of suet can be hung in plastic-covered metal “cages.”
Take care!
When we feed birds, please keep the feeders clean and don’t use toxic chemicals like bleach or detergents to clean them. Remember: we’re hoping to support the birds.
And finally? Please, never use packaging like plastic netted bags in which onions are sold. One chickadee lost its leg when it got tangled in the fibre… it was a dreadful sight, one I will never forget.
Be kind: feed the birds.
Pontiac Christmas Bird Counts
Christmas Bird Counts in the Pontiac area are approaching. Contribute and learn about species: December 14, Allumette Island; December 21, Quyon/Shawville; December 28, Fort-Coulonge; January 3, Calumet Island and area; January 4, Breckenridge/
Dunrobin. Contact Deborah Powell for information:
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com