When feathered visitors fly in — it’s OK to give them a feed

Professor Darryl Jones - Urban Ecologist

Australia’s leading expert on birds says it’s OK to feed wild birds – if done correctly – at home, challenging a widely held attitude that feeding birds is all bad.

Professor Darryl Jones from Griffith’sEnvironmental Futures Research Institute, has published a new book The Birds at My Table, which has sold exceptionally well since its March 14 release.

More than one-third of Australians feed birds at home, a practice that has seen opposing views from certain groups. Professor Jones encourages people who feed birds at home to enjoy the experience but to be careful not to offer inappropriate foods or too much.

“It’s a treat not a three-course meal,” Professor Jones says.

“This is the only country on the earth where feeding wild birds is strongly discouraged, but despite that, literally millions of people do it and sadly there is very little advice available.

“Part of the responsibility in writing this book is to develop guidelines for people to feed wild birds in the best way.

“There is no good explanation as to why people have been discouraged from feeding birds. The same concerns exist around the world: that the birds become dependent on the food, get diseases, and bring the wrong types of birds. Some are correct (we have to be careful about disease), while other concerns are not (birds do not become dependent).”

In The Birds at My Table, Professor Jones delves into the implications of feeding wild birds and reveals the wide range of reasons behind the pastime.

“I think it’s just human nature. There are complex motivations for feeding but part of it is trying to help birds; in the cold Northern Hemisphere, for example, when people see hungry, cold birds you want to assist,” he said.

“The other thing we really like is the contact. Even at the beach or park, when birds approach you it’s very hard to resist.

“But ultimately there is a deeper level. Our studies have uncovered perceptions such as the idea that because humans have done so much damage to the earth, feeding is trying to give something back, which is quite a profound attitude.”

The Birds at My Table is available now and is published in Australia by NewSouth Press.