Backyard Chirper

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Bird Myths: Feeders stop birds from migrating

If you had the choice between eating delicious food whenever you want for free or walking hundreds of miles to get to another place where you would have to buy your own food, what would you do?

Well, you and I might stay and eat that food all year round, but if you were a bird, you’d make that trip no matter what.

There’s a pretty common myth out there that says if you leave your bird feeders out as winter approaches, the birds will become lazy and not migrate south.

The consequence, as the myth goes, is that the birds end up freezing to death.

This myth is simply not true because most birds are not driven away by the lack of food. There is a genetic predisposition to migrate to warmer temperatures, which is sparked by the length of the day. The Great Backyard Bird Count says that leaving the feeders up in fall and winter is good for the birds because they get more nutrients for that long flight south.

A recent study said that it might actually be better to take feeders down during the spring when birds are breeding because they may have negative behavioral effects. For example, scientists noticed a reduction in brood sizes when there were feeders available and attributed this decline to the possibility that the birds were concentrating on defending their food more than breeding.

When fall finally does start rolling around, you shouldn’t be afraid to keep your feeders up because it will not prevent birds from migrating. On the other hand, you might want to consider taking your feeder down during the height of breeding season, so you don’t promote that negative behavior.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.

4 Comments

  1. […] available. We now know that’s simply not true. We’ve covered it more thoroughly in another blog post, but birds use an internal clock to tell them when they should migrate and it has little to do with […]

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