Vol. 5 Issue 2, Winter 2001
By Leslie McCasker
Occasionally people argue that feeding birds in winter is harmful either because it ruins their natural foraging instinct or because providing supplemental food disrupts the birds’ natural migratory patterns. Neither of these is true!
Birds that visit feeders in winter either live here all year or spend their winters here to escape the harsher winter conditions farther north.
Despite what you may read or hear, it is okay to feed wild birds. At certain times, food from our feeders can mean the difference between life and death. When the daytime high temperatures remain in the single digits, during winter storms, or in times of heavy snow cover, some birds may not be able to find enough food to meet their nutritional needs. If they have a dependable source of food that doesn’t require long-distance travel or searching they can survive.
You can even take a winter vacation, your birds won’t starve. They will search for natural foods or switch to another feeder. And when you return and fill your feeders, after a few days — your birds will return.
So, if you’ve ever worried that feeding the birds in winter is doing more harm than good, stop worrying. Except for those infrequent times of extreme conditions, the birds are quite capable of surviving and do not rely on us to survive. Even though the birds enjoy our generosity and will gladly accept our handouts, they can usually survive without them.