In the UK it is estimated that as many as 3 out of every 4 households feed wild birds, and more than £200 million is spent annually on bird feeding. In the US more than 50 million people feed birds and, according to the book Feeding Wild Birds in America (by Paul J Baicich, Margaret A Barker and Carol L Henderson) the US market was a staggering $4 billion on bird food alone in 2012. It is clear that feeding birds is a very popular pastime, but is it good for the birds?
Feeding wild birds can certainly be considered unnatural. However, humans have altered the natural environment so much, generally negatively and leading to declines in most bird populations, that gardens can conceivably compensate in some way. There is no doubt that feeding can influence most aspects of birds’ lives, including nesting, behaviour, distribution and longevity. The key question is whether feeding wild birds is damaging to the birds or other wildlife.