Utne Blogs > Literature

The Secret Life of Birdfeeders

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Great Writing, birding, birdfeeders, The Smart Set, Bennett Gordon,

BirdfeederThe birdfeeder industrial complex is raking in cash, inviting controversy, and may be changing the genetic structure of bird populations. Writing for The Smart Set, Jesse Smith pecks at the multi-billion-dollar bird-feeding industry and finds rampant consumerism, scientific data fights, and a hobby that is altering the course of life itself. According to research cited by Smith, the predominance of bird feeders in England has shifted migratory patterns for some Central European blackcaps, causing some of the birds to stay in England for the winter and others to venture on to Spain. The different groups are already showing genetic adaptations suited to the two different climates, and could lead the birds to split into two separate species.

Source: The Smart Set 

Image by Scorpion0422, licensed under Creative Commons.

justin_5
1/30/2010 4:54:41 AM

I was an official wildlife rehabilitator in upstate NY during the time that I had a small 8 acre farm outside Ithaca, NY. My specialty was small birds. People would bring me any non-raptors that they had found wounded, or chicks that had been abandoned or the parents were dead. The smaller birds seemed to bond with me very easily. At times I felt like a small time female St. Francis of Assisi. Anyway, I do not feel that an over abundance of birdfeeders in any climate or any season or any part of the world is going to upset the balence of nature in a detrimental manner. People should help the small birds wherever they are. Cities and metropolitan areas have seen a great change in the number of pigeons. What has happened? There are more raptors than ever nesting on the top of high rise bldgs. and hunting these pigeons. This creates a whole new dynamic. Life moves and flows and changes. Love the birds and feed them. They are vibrant and responsive to us.


joy rebello
1/28/2010 12:31:01 PM

From what I recall, the data when originally released also focused on the relatively short period of time that these changes occurred and was not really all that negative. I think this was just an observable and convenient population.


daniel lim_2
1/28/2010 11:39:45 AM

"The different groups are already showing genetic adaptations suited to the two different climates, and could lead the birds to split into two separate species." My question to this statement is, So what? Western culture is so ingrained with the belief that humans are outside of nature and that anything we do has to be disruptive to the "natural order" of things. We need to re-adopt the old wisdom that humans are living parts of the web of life and that we have always been interacting with the rest of life, for good or for bad. There are hundreds of other human activities that are clearly degrading the web of life. Birdfeeding is not one of them.