I would love to do more for the wildlife in our beautiful countryside. However, there are so many do’s and don’ts concerning the actual welfare of the birds and animals it gets very confusing. I would like to dispel some of the wildlife feeding myths and recommend what would help our garden creatures to flourish.
1. You don’t need to feed birds in the summer months.
It is often thought that with so much more natural food sources in summer, the birds don’t need any help. In fact, some people even think that feeding birds in summer will make them lazy and they will lose their natural skills for finding food.
In actual fact, garden birds are nesting in summer and there are hundreds more mouths to feed. The days are longer and the birds are constantly out looking for food for their young, so they are using much more energy and really benefit from the extra food.
2 Hedgehogs should be given milk and bread.
There is lots of information around about protecting hedgehogs and keeping them safe and healthy. However, never leave milk and bread out for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so the milk will give them diarrhea and bread has no nutritional value. Just leave a little cat or dog food and plenty of fresh water.
Special hedgehog food can be purchased which is designed to give hedgehogs all the nutrition they need,
3. Bread can be fed to ducks.
Taking children to feed the ducks has been a favourite pastime for generations. However, as already discussed, bread has no nutritional value. The ducks happily fill up on bread and don’t bother to find food which has essential nutrients to keep them healthy. Therefore they lose body condition and can even become obese.
Uneaten food changes the chemical and bacteriological content of water.
Conservationists state that the feeding of ducks is harming waterfowl and polluting waterways.
4. Touching a baby bird will make its mother reject it.
Birds don’t have a good sense of smell so it wouldn’t be able to tell if the chick had been handled by a human. However, don’t pick up a young bird if it appears to be alone, there is a high chance that the mother is very close by.
5. All bees can sting you.
This again is a wildlife myth and not true. Female bumblebees can sting you but males can’t. Even female bumblebees aren’t aggressive and will only sting if provoked. The honeybees (or workers) do sting to protect their queen and their store of honey. They are most aggressive when in close proximity to the hive.
6. Feeding birds stop them from migrating.
Research shows that feeding birds does not stop them from migrating. In fact, it gives a boost of energy and keeps them in great condition for their long journey. Migratory birds have an inbuilt schedule for when to take flight, one of the factors which decide when to migrate is the length of day.
7. Rice kills birds.
The myth is actually that rice expands in the stomach and it explodes, killing the bird. This isn’t true, in fact, some migratory ducks and geese feed on rice fields before migrating to build up strength.
The tradition of throwing rice at weddings has been stopped in some churches because people believe that the birds will die when they eat rice from the churchyard.
8. You can catch fleas from hedgehogs.
Absolutely not! Hedgehog fleas are host specific, which means that they can’t survive on any other species.
9. It is fine to feed birds desiccated coconut.
This is another wildlife feeding myth. Desiccated coconut will swell inside a bird’s stomach and could cause death. However, fresh coconut in the shell is fine.
10. It’s unsafe to leave out dog or cat food for hedgehogs.
Dog or cat food is great for hedgehogs, especially cat biscuits (which are good for their teeth too) Hedgehogs love mealworms, however, they have little nutritional value so should only be offered as an occasional treat.
11. All bees produce honey.
Only the honey bee produces honey and there are over 20,000 species of bee.
The numbers of bees are declining quickly and in some regions 90% of honey bees have left their hives. It is called ‘colony collapse disorder’.
12 Bird feeders made from netting are safe.
From The RSPB
“The netting that surrounds fat balls, peanuts and seed sold for bird food is one of the most dangerous things that can be put out in our gardens.”
Birds can get trapped in the mesh and break legs and wings. Spiral feeders are also dangerous. Always make sure that there are no rough or spikey edges on the feeder. The feeder should be cleaned regularly and rinsed so that no detergent residue is left.
For more details about bird feeding https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/feeding-birds/how-to-feed-birds
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Thank you for reading.