Why bird feeding should stop
My grand-aunt would collect the leftover rice and feed it to the birds. We fed bread corners to sparrows ourselves, dismayed when crows snatched them instead. In many mandirs, feeding birds is what people do. People over-feed pigeons all over Indian cities.
But should we really feed them?
Instinctively, I was inclined to say no, because it pushes some birds to dominate, proliferate and take over urban ecosystems, pushing other birds out. Then, I began reading the research.
I couldn’t find much on India. Global studies of a particularly tragic tale of the North American House Finch. Thousands of individuals have become blind, thanks to a form of conjunctivitis. They can also catch this contagion from feeders. Another study found sparrows being fed with more lice. The Great Tit, in parts of England, has adapted its bill to forage sunflower seeds people offer. Luckily, these birds also forage naturally. Many fed their young ones only ‘wild food.’
Urbanites bird because we feel good, basically. Why not give up our little urban lawns and plant or cultivate what the birds like to eat. Isn’t it better to stop our pesticide-laden, effluent spewing lifestyles? Why give bread to gulls when you can help them get safe fish? Or plant trees, nurture old trees and shrubs. Bird feeding must be phased out, just like petting zoos are mostly done. Let’s re-train our minds to experience fulfilment from nature in ways that are also kind to nature. Free the birds from feeding, I say.
The writer is the founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group