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Impacts of Feeding Birds

Knox is a well-known haven for a variety of birds and animals. Local open spaces such as parks, bushland reserves, vegetated road verges and wildlife gardens provide an abundance of natural foods and habitat for local wildlife.

It may be fun to feed the birds, but it does them more harm than good. There is nothing we can feed wildlife that can adequately replace their own, natural diet. Whilst providing certain kinds of foods can cause a variety of problems, the activity itself impacts on the local ecology.

We ask that residents and visitors to Knox respect the wild nature of birds and help to keep them healthy by not feeding or handling them.

Why you shouldn't feed birds

To maintain healthy wildlife

Sulphur Crested cockatoo
  • Feeding animals inappropriate food can cause them dietary problems. This can make them sick and die a premature or painful death.
  • When birds ‘gorge’ themselves on white bread they stop eating their natural foods, which are more nutritious. The birds can then become malnourished. Birds can also choke on wads of bread.
  • Food left lying around can become stale and grow fungi that are poisonous to the wildlife that eats it. It can also encourage rodents to infest areas.
  • It can encourage introduced animals to the area where native wildlife then have to compete for the habitat.
  • Artificial feeding can alter the natural balance between life and death. This can lead to sick animals being kept alive and possibly transmitting their disease throughout their population or into other populations.
  • Artificial feeding can make wildlife an easy target for predators such as foxes, dogs and cats.
  • Young birds are not taught by their parents how to forage for natural foods – they then risk starvation.

To encourage natural migration

The natural cycles of migration (which are largely determined by seasonal food supplies) may be disrupted when supplementary food is readily available year-round.

To reduce the risk of diseases spreading to humans

  • Close contact with animals may increase the risk of diseases being spread to humans.
  • Feeding can keep sick birds alive which increases the risk of disease spreading to other birds and/or people.
  • The possibility of viral, fungal or bacterial diseases being spread increases when large numbers of birds congregate at a feeding site.
  • Large amounts of bird faeces pollute footpaths, eating tables, boardwalks/jetties, and other facilities where the birds are being fed.

To help manage blue-green algae in the waterways

Bread thrown into the waterways contributes to the high nutrient levels that promote the growth of blue-green algae.

To reduce the risk of residents unwittingly provoking aggressive behaviour in birds.

Birds such as swans can be unwittingly provoked into aggressive behaviour, harming you or the bird itself.

How to attract birds to your garden naturally

Instead of putting food out for birds in your gardens, plant indigenous plants (native plants local to Knox) that produce flowers, fruits and/or seeds to encourage local wildlife to feed naturally. Also provide sources of water that you can clean regularly.

Good bird habitat includes food, water and shelter and the more variety you can create in your yard the more birds you may see in it. Consider adding a bird bath or two to the garden, a pedestal and a hanging birdbath is ideal and they will cater for different types of birds. When the weather is dry, a bird bath can be a life-saving oasis which will attract many birds. They like to bathe in it as well as drink it, so be sure to clean it often and that its position is easy to access.

To find out more about how to support local wildlife, visit the Gardens for Wildlife page.

For more information

Further enquiries about wildlife issues can be directed to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on 136 186.

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