Should I Feed Wild Birds Year Round?

by Larry Jordan on September 14, 2007

Downy Woodpecker at nut feeder

Photo of Downy Woodpecker at feeder by Old Pirate from NC

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approximately 54 million residents of the United States feed wild birds at backyard feeders. This is important due to the fact that our environment has changed drastically over the last fifty years. Not only do our wild birds have to deal with loss of habitat, they must also compete with birds like starlings and house sparrows that are not native to North America.

Feeders provide a supplement to natural food supplies for wild birds. Rarely do they comprise the bulk of their diet. In general, wild birds depend on foods they find away from bird feeders and they find them with incredible efficiency. If all supplemental feeding stopped overnight, there would probably not even be a noticeable decline in bird populations.

The fact is, the joy of introducing children and adults to bird watching is reason enough to attract wild birds to backyard feeders. This is why bird feeding has become the second most popular passive hobby in the US, second only to gardening. And the great thing is that they compliment each other and you can do both at the same time if you wish!

What I want you to know is that you don’t have to worry about leaving your feeders empty when you go on vacation for a few weeks. Wild birds have been fending for themselves for thousands of years and they will find food whether you feed them or not. Offering your birds a constant food and water supply really is a benefit for you because you get the constant joy of watching them.

So, should you feed wild birds year round?  My answer is yes for several reasons that will be discussed in my next post.  Until then….happy birding!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Brigitte September 19, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I’m glad you clarified this for me. I have seen lots of information out there saying you should stop feeding when it gets to a certain temperature or at a certain date or whatever. I am relieved to find out that I can feed these birds all year and maybe help them out in the process! I love the woodpecker photograph too, thanks.



Brenda September 20, 2007 at 10:46 am

Thank You for providing such wonderful information. I love the pictures of the birds, flowers and the other little creatures. I was interested in the year round feeding thing as well. Thank you for the clarification. I’m sure our little friends will appreciate it this winter. Brenda


leuisc October 5, 2007 at 4:46 pm

I was very much helped by the information with this article.
Many thanks at you very fascinating resource.
good by


Wahoo October 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Thank you for sharing!


Daniel October 28, 2007 at 1:09 am

I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Should I Feed Wild Birds Year Round?, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.


Larry October 28, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Hi Daniel!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have about this article or about birds and feeding wild birds. I am more than happy to answer questions and help people with this great pastime of birding.



Daniel December 10, 2007 at 5:32 pm

I couldn’t understand some parts of this article ld I Feed Wild Birds Year Round?, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.


Mary January 9, 2008 at 3:57 am

I stumbled here by accident but will stick around!


John Hartmann March 15, 2009 at 7:00 am

I am pretty uneducated about birds but I am building birdhouses from your book, Larry and hope to attract many to my yard. One thing that has always worried me was the idea that feeding birds year round might cause them to lose their survival skills as they become dependent on humans providing their food. That idea has inhibited me for a long time such that I only fed the birds during the winter. Is their such a danger as what I have been fearing? Thanks.

John in Louisville, Kentucky


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