Is feeding birds in the winter good or bad for the birds?

Idaho Ask a Scientist

Answered by Dr. Chuck Trost, Emeritus Professor, Idaho State University

As long as the feeders are clean, the food gives birds the
energy to survive during a stressful period.
Personally I fed birds because I like to watch them. I’ll have to admit that it does concentrate
them, and predators such as cats and hawks can prey on them. But all in all, bird feeding provides an
educational opportunity for the person feeding, as well as their children.

Bird-Feeding Concerns (from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Poorly maintained feeders may contribute to the spread of
infectious diseases among birds. The feeders themselves can sometimes pose
hazards too. Here are some helpful hints for successful bird feeding:

  • Avoid overcrowding at feeders by placing numerous feeders several feet apart.
  • Keep your feeding area and feeders clean.
  • Keep food and food-storage containers dry and free of mold and fungus.
  • Check your feeders for sharp…

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Winter Demands Seasonal Tree Attention


The day after Thanksgiving here and taking time do some house keeping and preparation. The tree benches all need rearranged for winter. Trees going dormant move down and trees needing continued winter sun and cold hardy move up. I always do this in stages.

Rearranging trees for sun and cold hardy protection in process. Dormant trees move down and trees needing more protection go closer to the ground.

Pulled trees before the rain starts for re-potting. These candidates will be given new pots or new orientations based on critiques. They will be carefully watched throughout the winter and protected from freezing temperatures.

Candidates for re-potting pulled out of the rain.

Since our temperatures last night went down to 34 degrees, people have asked about the tropical trees. They began their season dance of in and out movement. In for the cold night. The rest of the week, the evening temperatures…

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David M's photoblog

The new One Word Sunday challenge is Fashion. My initial idea was a photo of a bird species preening. However, birds preen to maintain their feathers, not to make themselves look smart so you can’t really say it’s a fashion statement.

But the idea of birds feathers made me think of the trade in birds feathers for the fashion industry. At the end of the 19th Century colonies of Egrets, Herons and other species were being slaughtered to supply the fashion industry with feathers. Frequently the adult birds were killed in the breeding season leaving the young to starve or be eaten by predators.

An adult Great Blue Heron with its feathers blowing in the wind. Photographed on the Lake Huron shoreline in Southampton, Ontario, Canada.

Great Blue Heron with its plumes blowing in the wind.

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A very special Sanctuary

Birder's Journey

fullsizeoutput_30f9Are you familiar with the infamous plume trade that supplied the millinery industry just over 100 years ago? This sign at the entrance to theCorkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples, Florida, provides a glimpse into the history behind this practice . . . and, this incredible place.imageI cringe to think about it, but literally millions of beautiful wetland birds, like those pictured here, were slaughtered (many, nearly to extinction) in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – just so their stunning plumage could adorn the hats of fashionable, wealthy women.Read more in this 2018Audubon articleand on Wikipedia, Plume hunting.IMG_3116Thankfully, the advocacy efforts of a group of women eventually led to an end to the plume trade in the U.S., to the establishment of the Audubon Society, and eventually to the historic Migratory Bird Treaty Actover a century ago (Smithsonian Magazine).

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You never know who you’ll meet . . .

Birder's Journey

Great Egrets are plentiful and we see them year round in our lush southern Palm Beach County wetlands.

Cormorants are among the other ‘regulars’ we see here all the time, no matter what time of year.

The Mottled Ducks nest and raise their delightful ducklings here – they’re so serene, never seem to be in a hurry!

TheRed-winged Blackbirds nest in great numbers and, even though we’ve had lots of babies hatch already, the females are still bringing building materials back to their neat little nests, woven in the crooks of Pond Apple trees and other shrubs.

I’m always amazed at the way these plump little Marsh Rabbits seemas comfortable munching at the plants along the water’s edge as they are in the thick grass – though these look like a particularly yummy spots.

Still. . . . you never know who might be lurking unseen. The mama Gator

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Shy Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Birder's Journey

fullsizeoutput_314bThis Yellow-crowned Night Heron was enjoying his grooming in the privacy of this leafy cypress tree, when suddenly . . .fullsizeoutput_314cHe noticed that he was being watched – AND photographed!fullsizeoutput_317eSo, he raised his wide wing to hide from view, and stayed this way for the longest time. I confess, I got the message! . . . Gave up waiting, and moved on down the boardwalk.

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