Toronto (Etobicoke), Ontario

Jim & Lynda Mackiewicz

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Toronto (Etobicoke), Ontario

5468 Dundas Street West
Toronto (Etobicoke), ON M9B 6E3

Phone: (416) 233-3558
Fax: (416) 233-3293
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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Spring Bird Feeding

Should I feed the birds birdseed in the spring?

Spring is the time when we have customers come into the store and ask "Should we be feeding birdseed to the birds now?", "Shouldn’t the birds eat their natural food now?" or "Won’t the birds get lazy if I feed them birdseed?" In the past we have read articles in the local papers, such as the Etobicoke Guardian in which the author describes her enjoyment of feeding birds birdseed in the winter but stops in April because, "they need to remember how to get their own food again." Unfortunately these authors present personal feelings as if they were fact. If they had done any amount of research they would find their "personal feelings" do not represent the facts in regards to feeding wild birds birdseed. Given the amount of mis-information available we thought this would be an opportune time to answer the spring bird feeding question with facts and not personal feelings.

Should I feed my birds in the spring? The simple answer is "yes".

Why should I feed my birds in the spring?

Birds must commit a lot of time and energy foraging for natural food in the spring. Bird habitat continues to disappear reducing foraging areas and in spring plants have yet to produce seed and/or berries and the majority of insects are still dormant. Providing food (birdseed, suet) helps compensate for the reduced habitat and lessens the time required to forage for food.

Research studies have been conducted to help determine the results of providing birds access to provided food in the spring. The results are as follows:

  1. Birds will spend more time selecting better nest sites and construct a better nest.
  2. Birds will lay their eggs earlier. This is significant because earlier broods have a better survival and fledging rates than later broods.
  3. Reduced aggression amongst nest siblings is noted when the parents have enough to provide the chicks.
  4. Adults can spend more time protecting their nest, eggs and young.
  5. Adult birds have a better survival rate because they can place a greater focus on being aware of threats from predators.

  6. Molting is a huge energy and nutrient drain on birds. A lack of an abundant healthy food supply can result in the impaired ability to obtain the proper pigmentation, weak, frayed or curved molting feathers.

Is there scientific fact to support spring bird feeding?

Research gives us at least six significant reasons why we should feed birdseed to our birds in the spring. But, will they get lazy, will they become our non tax deductible dependents? The latest and most comprehensive study started in the spring of 2011 Millikin University started this first of its kind four year study on the health effects of bird feeding on wild birds. Their conclusion was that birds with access to feeders were healthier than birds that did not have access to feeders. The complete study can be downloaded here - Millikin University Study. The University of Wisconsin conducted a multi year study on feeding birdseed to Chickadees in the winter. Part of the study involved conditioning the Chickadees to supplement natural feeding with provided birdseed. After a number of years of supplementing natural feeding with provided birdseed the feeders were removed. The study indicated the Chickadees went right back to an all natural food diet without a problem. This research indicated birds do not become dependent on bird feeders. A more local source David Bird, professor of wildlife biology at Montreal’s McGill University described feeders as just "fast-food restaurants as far as birds are concerned, and don’t create dependency at all. The birds have plenty of food sources out there, so [the choice] comes down to whether or not you enjoy it."

How can feeding birds in the spring help the environment?

If you enjoy watching the on-going activity your birds bring to your habitat, if you are fascinated by their behaviour, you probably find yourself caring about what happens to these creatures. And this care for part of the natural environment is a great feeling/concept to pass onto others young and old.

Locally the Urban Ecology Centre at Humber College Arboretum does an amazing job of introducing local students to the thrill of nature. Their goal is to "help kids bond with their local environment, to develop an affinity that will encourage concern for it and, eventually, for the wider world as well". If we can help encourage kids and adults to care more about the environment through bonding and then caring about their birds through backyard bird feeding, then we should continue. And spring is great time to introduce this hobby because the weather encourages us to spend more time outside. It is a lot easier to encourage someone to fill a bird feeder and then sit outside and watch the birds in sunny twenty degree weather versus a cloudy minus ten day with a windchill of minus twenty.

We know that interaction and education are of upmost importance because we must know something before we can love it and we will protect what we love.

What can we feed our birds in the spring?

Customers who have decided to continue feeding their birds in the spring will often ask if the birds have any special dietary needs.

Birds require calcium to form eggshells and to feed their nestlings. Scientific research by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology indicates "under certain conditions, birds cannot find sufficient sources of natural calcium, and researchers believe acid rain may play a role in this." We have recognized that our birds will benefit from feeder products that include calcium and as such have developed exclusive products that include calcium.

Our Nesting Blend is a premium birdseed blend based on black oil sunflower seed with calcium added to the blend. We have now introduced our No Mess No Millet blend with added calcium. Offering suet in the spring is a great way to get calcium into the diet of some of your backyard birds. We offer our Calcium Care, Peanut Butter and Jelly and Jim's Birdacious Bark Butter Brick suet dough with calcium added. Another great supplement to your bird seed blend or offered separately is Jim's Birdacious Bark Butter Bits, suet nuggets with calcium added.

In conclusion

We hope this article will help with the understanding of the importance of feeding birdseed and other foods in the spring. But as we have always explained to our in store customers it really is your choice. But armed with the facts one can make an informed choice.

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