Bird feeders and other feed stations

Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) at a bird feeder.

Bird feeders are popular across North America for attracting and keeping the interest of birds. But bird feeders attract everyone in an ecosystem, not just winged visitors. Bears in particular are drawn to the high calorie seed in feeders, and any fallen seeds will attract rodents or other small animals.

Birds as well as smaller animals will attract larger animals, including those who may come into conflict with people or pets. Bird feeders in bear country are never a good idea and in other regions close attention should be paid to how much seed is falling and who else (including nocturnal creatures) are visiting the area as a result of the presence of a feeder.

Removing a feeder does not mean native birds will leave an area.

Other direct feeding, be it for baiting in hunting and trapping seasons or as a hobby for local wildlife, will also attract a multitude of species. Supplemental feeding in response to issues in an ecosystem or natural disaster should be carried out with the help of qualified experts who can monitor the impact on the overall food web.

Remember: consequences always exist in ecosystems, even if we can’t see them.

Resources and research

Bornhoft, W. (2018, January 9). Bears And Bird Feeders; A Recipe For Retrieved from

Greenfield, P. (2018, March 12). Garden bird feeders help spread disease among wild birdsThe Guardian. Retrieved from

Lawson, B., Robinson, R. A., Toms, M. P., Risely, K., Macdonald, S., & Cunningham, A. A. (2018). Health hazards to wild birds and risk factors associated with anthropogenic food provisioningPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences373(1745), 20170091. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0091