Ask the Experts: Question #3

Welcome to Question #3 of our Ask the Experts feature where each week we pose one of your questions to our birding experts and then see their responses.

Please welcome this week’s two birding experts:

Jim Zook: Professional ornithologist, bird population specialist for Stanford University and co-author of ‘The Wildlife of Costa Rica‘.

Basil (Baz) Kirilenko: Owner and Operator of Mindo Valley Tours; Mindo, Ecuador.

Question #3: What are your thoughts on bird feeders? Do they help the birds or is it possible they do some harm. From SVBC member Ellen Beckett.

*****The San Vito Bird Club recognizes that Costa Rica currently has a nationwide policy forbidding the feeding of wildlife. Please do not interpret this article…or the responses from our Exerts…as giving permission or approval to feed Costa Rican wildlife.*****

Jim Zook: I feel that feeders can provide a valuable opportunity for wildlife appreciation and thereby education. The negative impact on birds can be reduced by limiting the size of feeding stations and set-ups and the frequency at which they are replenished, by maintaining the quality of food and the cleanliness of the entire operation and by locating feeders where exposure to predators or window strikes is minimized. Bigger, all day feeding setups that are poorly sited, stocked with inappropriate food and that fail to practice proper hygiene would certainly be more likely to cause problems. For tourist operations a good feeding setup can be a major added attraction, even to the point of becoming legendary (think of Cope’s or the Monteverde Hummingbird Garden) and I don’t think it’s right to deny them the option of having a well run feeder. Perhaps there could be some kind of certification. An outright ban is certainly the easiest solution.

Basil (Baz) Kirilenko: Our main concern is, and always should be, the protection of wildlife. Let’s remember, the wildlife has been here longer than we have…a lot longer…and wildlife has thrived successfully without our food augmentation. But as a young boy I remember sitting near a platform feeder (with guidebook and Tasco binoculars in hand) enthralled by the diversity of life so close at hand. That experience proved to be very influential in my future life’s work and no doubt the same goes for many other naturalists. Yes, this is a paradox. Great…just what we need right now…another paradox.