RESEARCH: Bird feeders – are they good for birds?

Bird feeders are containers filled with birdseed and placed in the garden to attract wild birds.

A British study has found that putting bird feeders in your garden helps the growth of bird populations.

The study, published in May 2019 in the Nature Communications journal, looked at the advantages, disadvantages and impact of bird feeders in people’s garden over the past 40 years.

The researcher, Kate Plummer of the British Trust for Ornithology, and a team of volunteers, have been monitoring the species of birds that feed on seeds and fruit from bird feeders across England since the 1970s. 

The 40-year data shows that about 68 species of birds have always used the bird feeders from the 1970s to the present day. 

Not only do bird species keep going back to the bird feeder over many years, but also larger numbers of the same species, and different species of birds, join them. 

For example, 10% of volunteers saw wood pigeons at their garden bird feeders in the 1970s and now 80% of volunteers see wood pigeons coming to their bird feeders. 

Regular bird visitors include robins and blackbirds. Additionally, different species join the regular birds, which improves the biodiversity of the garden. 

In cities and towns, the size of bird populations in the areas around the volunteers’ gardens has increased for the species of birds that use the feeders, and the populations have not increased for the species of birds that do not use the feeders. This is why researchers think that feeding from the bird feeders is the reason for the increases in bird populations in the area.

So, bird feeders in your garden are good for birds because they help to increase the general population of birds in the area, and they help to bring different species of birds to your garden – regular bird visitors and new visitors. 

However, the researchers say that the bird feeders must be kept clean so that bird diseases do not occur. 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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