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MLA Full: "How To Feed Wild Birds The Right Way." YouTube, uploaded by Animal Wonders Montana, 8 May 2020,
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Did you know that so many people feed wild birds that it's changing the birds' behavior? How can you make sure you're helping and not accidentally harming the wild birds you feed?

*Edit: Trichomoniasis is present in the US, not just the UK. We apologize for the mistake.

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Hi everyone.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  The world is filled with people who are fascinated by animals, and I'm happy to say that the whole team at Animal Wonders is part of that group.  We love all the animals that we care for at Animal Wonders, but we also love learning about and observing animals in their natural habitat.  

Now, songbirds are particularly interesting to humans and some have made it a serious pasttime to observe them for centuries.  We enjoy watching them out in the wild and we love seeing them visit our own yards and gardens.  We've even taken to enticing them closer to our homes for easier viewing by learning what they eat and making the offering in exchange for their company, so when did this whole bird feeding phenomenon start?

Well, a monk named St. Serf is the first person recorded feeding birds.  It's written that he fed and tamed a wild pigeon in Scotland in the 6th century, which is about 1500 years ago, and apparently, we've been doing it ever since, and it's become quite popular with both the humans and the birds who partake in the feasts.

I think these kinds of large-scale interactions with animals is really interesting and it's quite inspiring to know how much empathy humans have for others.  In the winter of 1890 and 1891, newspapers across the UK urged people to leave food out for the birds because the weather was so severe, and the people were so in love with the birds that they flocked to help them.  

Now, in the UK, birds are fed all year round and at least half of the homes in Britain feed birds in their gardens, and in the United States, feeding birds is a very common pasttime, second only to gardening.  An average of $3 billion is spent on different types of bird feed every year.

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Birds are loved and fed in countries all across the world, and it just makes me so happy knowing how much people enjoy it.

So humans love feeding birds, they're beautiful animals and its fun seeing them in our own backyard. However scientists have been studying our bird feeding habits and they have found some interesting conclusions.

There are some big benefits to feeding the birds, it allows us to see beautiful wild animals without having to leave our homes or go out into their territory in search of them, and it can become educational if you start learning to recognise the diferent species that come to visit. It's also great for kids because when the birds come to eat they might stay and build a nest, and then they might raise their young all in our backyards. Being connected to animals in this way allows them to begin appreciating and wondering about animals from a young age.

And the birds benefit from being fed as well. Since so many people feed the birds in the UK, it's reported that there's enough food set out to sustain the 10 most common garden species, that's a lot of food! And that means that in the winter and during periods of harsh weather many birds will still be able to find food, and then they'll have a better chance of surviving and successfully raising their young.

Now, some significant changes have also been happening. More and more birds are beginning to move into urban areas where there's abundent food all year round. And surveys are recording increases in species diversity and richness over the last few decades, but birds that would normally live in more wooded habitats are moving away from forests and toward human settlesments.

So by feeding the birds it's been scientifically proven that we are impacting bird populations, and not always in a good way. So because there is another side to this let's talk about some of the issues with feeding the birds. Now most bird feeders are placed in gardens or backyards, and as bird populations have increased so have predators and pests.

Some of the feed will fall on the ground and attract mice and rats, and the birds themselves will be coming into greater contact with predators like dogs and cats, and millions of birds are killed by cats every year.

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Also during breeding season nests located near a feeder are more vulnerable to predators like ravens, crows and squirrels.

But feeders can also be a hot spot for the spread of avian diseases. Some people will feed the birds bread or other table scraps, and these can hold very little nutritional value for the birds, and if they begin molding they can cause very serious health issues.

And another problem is many people don't clean their bird feeders, they hang the feeder, fill it with food and then just continue to replenish it as it gets empty. Since so many different birds and species are coming to feed from one spot instead of foraging far and wide, it's easy for diseases to transfer among individuals and then whole populations. For example, in the UK a disease called trichomonosis has caused a significant decrease in populations of Greenfinches and Chaffinches.

Trichomonosis is an infectious disease caused by a parasite called Trichomonas gallinae, it causes damage to the mouth, crop, esophagus and sometimes lung, liver and other body parts. This damage makes it hard for birds to swallow and eat, so they're often seen regurgitating food or drooling. If a bird with trichomonosis visits a bird feeder or bath and drools or spits, the parasite could be passed on to any other birds that visit that bird feeder or bath after them.

Thankfully this disease has not been documented in the US but there are a variety of other diseases that can be passed at dirty feeders or bird baths. So you can see there are some issues with feeding wild birds, but the great thing is that once we know the problems we can make sure to learn to avoid them for the benefit of the birds that we love so much. So don't be discouraged or go out and get rid of all of your feeders, bird feeding done right is still very beneficial to wildlife.

But there are some things that we can do differently to ensure that we're providing a safe habitat for birds when they come to visit our gardens or yards. First we can start by cleaning the feeders regularly.

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What I reccomend is having two bird feeders, hang one up and fill it with feed. After two weeks, take it down and hang the second feeder full of food, while the second feeder is up, wash the first one immediately and then leave it somewhere to dry and remain dry, until two weeks later when you switch them out. If the feed gets wet or you notice a sick bird at the feeder, throw the food away in a secure trash can, wash the feeder and then let it dry for a week before you replace it.
Second, we can try and feed the birds a little less when other food sources are more abundant.  During the winter and early spring it's much harder for birds to find food and they may rely on food that's set out by us.  But duing the summer there are tons of other food sources readily availible.  And many bird species also feed their babies insects while they're in the nest so they won't need the seed mix to feed their chicks.  Now the adults will still love to snack on seeds from the feeder while they hunt for insects.  But you don't need to provide for all of their dietary needs; just leave out a little.  
Also when the baby birds are fledging and begining to leave the nest it's important for them to learn how to forage for food on their own and not rely soley on the bird feeder.  
And finally make your yard a safe place for birds.  Birds have a hard time understanding windows and will often crash into them or become teritorial when they see their reflection and may end up injuring their wings or body.  So, you can help them out.  Set up your feeder at least thirty feet away from your home.  If you can't do that place anti bird decals on your windows to warn them off.  These decals stick right to your window, and many are clear to our eyes but the birds can see them because they reflect ultra violit light.  Also, if you have dogs or cats keep them inside or away from your feeders so the birds aren't being preyed upon by your pets.  
So you can see when it's done right feeding birds can be a wonderful past time.  It's so a joy to watch all the birds that will flock to your yard enjoying the bountys that you're providing.  Just be sure that you're also providing a safe habitat for them to visit.  
Thank you for watching!  If you'd like to learn more about birds and other animals subscirbe to our channel Animal Wonders Montana.

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