Why Feed Birds?

A birdwatcher explains why he loves feeding birds.

To the uninitiated, birding and bird feeding might seem like an absurd waste of time, money and energy.

From a practical standpoint, my passion for birds does seem a bit silly. I go to extraordinary lengths to watch, feed, photograph and be in the presence of birds. So I’m starting to ask myself one question—why?

I had a college professor who provided me with some insight into this passion. I remember talking to him as he admired a flock of 10,000 western sandpipers swirl in the air. As he stared upward at the mass of birds, he said, “Every western sandpiper in the world could go extinct tomorrow, and we would feel no economic impact of that loss. But what would be lost is beauty.”

Conservationists are constantly trying to put the importance of wildlife, wilderness and nature into economic terms. As though the dollar value of a flock of shorebirds or the birds at my feeders is all that matters.

This, I now realize, is utter nonsense. What makes birds valuable, what makes them worthy of our protection, is their inherent beauty. It is their beauty that enriches our lives, not their economic value. And this enrichment is priceless.

In this age, the noise of televisions, computers, radios, the Internet and automobiles constantly surrounds us. Buried in this cacophony of multimedia, we are far removed from the natural world. Yet, part of me yearns for that connection.

Our genetic history is tied to natural wildness, and in its absence, there is a loss. Birds are my solution to this.

I can admire migrant songbirds moving through city parks, and finches, robins and blackbirds in suburban backyards.

Birds are everywhere. Yet no matter how familiar they may be, they are subjected to wind, rain, snow, cold, predators and the trials of migration. Hold no doubt, birds are wild animals, and through them we can regain a thread of connection to their wildness.

Therein lies the answer to why I participate in this seemingly pointless activity. It is part of a struggle to maintain a connection to the wild. I invite these small, feathered, wild things into my yard and into my life with feeders of seed. I wander into the birds’ real—forests, beaches, mountains and wetlands—to experience their beauty on their terms.

These explorations restore balance to my life, and finding that balance is more reason than I need to justify my passion for birds.

  1. Elizabeth says

    It is great!!! I already have two new born bird egg at my bedroom window…it is amazing to.see life being!!!

  2. says

    I agree whole heartedly. Watching birds gives me contentment with God’s plan. And when you own birds they become so much a part of you life they will understand what you say to them. At one time I thought oh no now I’m stuck with these 6 cocatiels, but after 10 yrs. I would not trade them for any other animal.♥

  3. Sharon says

    We are going to be moving to a home by the water, I am so afraid I will never see my songbirds again, here in Texas we have Cardinals, Finches, Titmouse’s, Chickadee’s, Woodpeckers, I don’t want to see just Pelicans and Seagulls, but we will just have to see.

    • says

      I lived by a river near a Federal Marsh area, so we were surrounded by water. Always had a variety of birds, tiny and very big ones. We had the variety just like you and put feeders out summer and winter by the windows in the house. I recently moved to an assisted living apartment and my sons put two kinds of feeders on the upstairs windows just for my bird watching passion. It wasn’t long and there they were. There is a film type thing on the window, so they can’t see me, but I can get right up to them and really study them all I care too. Try it, you love it!!! Hummingbirds are my favorite, even saw a nest in my backyard tree once.

  4. Lucia says

    You have said it so well!!! birds help me filter the ever increasing suburban noises and watching them calms me.

  5. Candie says

    Very nicely said and I like your way of thinking. I personally have a different point of view. I have 2 rescued B&G Macaws that people just didn’t want anymore. They are messy and very loud at times. That said I really enjoy their company. I started looking at birds as Gods way of keeping an eye on everyone. I have hammers, crow, ravens, and dessert sparrows all around my house as I live in the dessert. I find it so amazing how endurable these creature are. Right now I have a Dove laying eggs on the edge of a bird house that I put up. I have had to put stuff up around the egg to stop it from falling. So precious is a little life. So instead of stopping to smell the flowers I watch the birds. Have a great day

  6. howard harner says

    I have bluebirds and tree swallows next to my gardens and they help with the bug removal as well as being a joy to look at.

  7. Cedric Tenner says

    I’ve been watching birds since my 1st Daisy BB gun. Now I feed because I enjoy seeing the new species to my area.

  8. Paula Watson says

    Thank you so much for your explanation….it gives me a sense of peace to read in words how birds singing make me feel. We also have feeders and houses for our feathered friends, and without them, life would be very dull.

  9. Roxanne Busby says

    My husband and I have an acre yard and we feed lots of different birds. We love hearing them sing, and seeing them take baths in the bird baths. Every yr we have more and more…its wonderful!

  10. Val says

    I’ve fed birds in our yard for over 40 years and love every minute of it. With over 20 feeders on the go at any given time, it keeps me busy, but it’s all well worth it. Now if only our snow would melt I’d be able to get our ponds/waterfalls up and running to prepare for all the warblers that drop in during migration :)

  11. Marie Whitaker says

    My husband and I feed the birds all year round because we love to see how many bring their babies to the feeders. I also think they are very funny and relaxing to watch.
    Also I will watch them in the winter to know when a storm is coming. They are better than a weatherman.

  12. Ginny says

    since childhood I’ve been in love with birds, connection with my Dad and mostly my Grammy. She had a bird field guide and we always marked the new birds we saw and dates. Did it with my own babies, doing it now with the Grands. Brings great balance and joy! always a thrill to see my first of any bird,still after 50 something, years of loving it.

  13. Bren says

    I feed them too. They look for me whenever I step outside my apartment. They also like table scraps. The crows call when I make an appearance and everyone flies in and starts singing.

  14. says

    I fed all the birds and squirrels last summer. I had many Bully birds that ate a lot. This year I have narrowed my bird feeding guest list to Hummingbirds, hopefully orioles, nuthatches, chickadees and blue jays. All winter I fed and kept a heated birdbath for water and bathing. at one point I counted 26 mourning doves. I had Ravens walk up to the patio. A hawk dropped in a killed a mourning dove( sad but it is a part of nature) I love their music, I love their colors and the succeeding generations that continue to come to the feeders. WHAT JOY and BEAUTY!. I hope to handfeed some this summer. Treasure beyond GOLD

  15. John Santilli says

    We have a house in the countryside in a national park in Italy but see very few birds. So we are about to make a feeder too to see what we have in this area. Thanks. I think birds are the last dinosaurs. All the best

  16. jill mckeon says

    I don’t see my feeding the birds during the cold months as a seemingly pointless activity, I see it as giving assistance during a difficult time in which they in return will feed upon the insects that would otherwise feed upon me in the warmer months. Umm if you want the practical point of view. The real reason is they are beautiful and give me joy

  17. Nancy says

    We also love feeding the birds. Wild finches in the sock feeders, doves on the ground and hummingbirds. Husband made the hummingbird bath from PVC pipe that was shown on here. We have not seen birds in it yet but something is going on since we find seeds in it. I also bring seed whenever we go to the beach or park.

  18. Steve Sage says

    Very similar for me and my wife. We love seeing the variety of birds we get here in the high desert in Arizona….woodpeckers, lots of cardinals, the occasional oriole, finche, sparrows, thrashers, etc. It’s fun seeing them and I feel, true or not, that we’re making their sometimes tough life a bit easier.

  19. Joyce (Graves) Olmstead says

    I have been feeding the birds for years and still enjoy them. I like nature , We had a bunch of wild ducks coming for a couple of years but there is just a few now.

  20. Cheryl Fisher says

    My father fed birds, so it was natural to do that when my husband and I set up housekeeping too nearly 50 years ago. Our affinity for birds was enhanced last Feb. when we viaited the Everglades and photographed many species of birds in their winter home. We call it ‘getting our nature fix,’ and there is nothing quite like it! Spending time away from electronic gadgets (except our cameras, of course) is most refreshing!!

  21. Linda Margison says

    I, too love birds for their beauty, song, and as part of the nature that surrounds me. But most of all, I feel a connection to their freedom. Flight, adventure, and the ability to find sustenance and shelter ‘on the wing’. I believe birds are the freest creatures on earth.

  22. Tracey says

    I love filling my trees with birdies! Hummingbirds and finches and all kinds of singing birds provide music and eat all the pests! They fertilize the ground and spread the seeds! PERFECT :-)

  23. says

    I agree with a lot of what you say here. I feel much more connected to nature, much more a part of it, since I started feeding birds. If I hadn’t already been a vegetarian when I put out my first feeder, I think would have become one. I think feeding them also feeds my own need to nurture, and even to have some stewardship of nature.

    I’ve since moved into a house with a yard, but I began feeding birds on my urban, apartment balcony when I became disabled and largely housebound. We can not underestimate birds’ role in the lives of the elderly, the seriously ill, and the disabled. They provide entertainment, beauty, and a connection to the larger cycle of life beyond or individual and physically painful lives which may not last that long.

    I hope this doesn’t seem like self-promotion, but I wrote about this very topic here: http://www.sublimemercies.com/2013/01/small-blessings-birds-and-balcony.html

  24. says

    I enjoy feeding the birds just to watch the beauty and antics of the different species. We feed in the summer also so we have generations of birds that have never moved from here now. The little ones are fun to watch as they learn how to fly and eat from the feeders. The colors are amazing.=from Michigan.

  25. Brenda says

    Your explanation is so true!! Love to sit in the morning & watch, listen & admire all the birds that visit our feeders. Starts the day off relaxing

  26. Marcy C says

    Been feeding birds forever…Having a total care adult daughter, I do all I can to bring the birds close to the house, so we can see birds right from the windows…I feed all year and love when the babies come to the feeders and you can watch when they realize how to eat from the feeders….I have done years of planting for the birds and butterflies on our 4 acres and the trade off of feeding all year is having bugs eaten from the plants and of course there is no chemicals used here in our “Cunkelman’s Safe Haven” habitat…

  27. C-A says

    A point about conservationists putting a $ value on wildlife; it gives leverage on govt and business to achieve more for conservation.
    The other point to consider is the risks to wildlife by feeding them. Many species have a tricky diet. If you fill them up with the wrong food, it can possibly kill them. It’s best to plant food producing plants suitable for the species you are trying to attract and leave leaf matter around to encourage insects to forage for.

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