Why have a bird feeder? They’re certainly not saving the world.
Ellen Honeycutt makes this case very well. She explains that very few birds actually use bird feeders, and that most eat insects instead. She suggests, rightfully so, that we need to grow things in our gardens that attract insects.
But she also suggests we give up on bird feeders. I disagree with this sentiment, because bird feeders provide a very important role: They are a connection between us and the birds.
Please hear me out on this, because I understand that growing plants that attract insects also connects us with nature, but not in the same way. You can watch birds hunt in your garden from the outside or by waiting quietly and in stillness from the inside, but it’s not the same as having a bird feeder. A feeder provides a type of entralization, a place for you and your friends or family to gather and admire the beauty of the birds.
A garden is decentralized, but a bird feeder is focused. It’s almost like a meeting ground between bird and human.
Birds at bird feeders provide some of my best memories as a child. I remember standing with my Nana, watching the different colors of the birds and looking in a book to find out which bird it was. I remember cleaning up under the feeder, removing small sunflower plants that grew from seeds that dropped to the ground. And I bet you have memories like these, too. I even have these memories today. One of my closest friends has a hummingbird feeder outside his window, and it’s not uncommon for us to stop mid-conversation to admire the hummingbird.
It’s true: bird feeders aren’t saving the world. In fact, they may not even be saving the birds. But they may be doing something even more important: Saving and fortifying the relationship between bird and human, between nature and us.
I encourage you to put up a bird feeder if you haven’t already. If you have, revitalize its purpose. Visit it every once in a while – by yourself, with your children and with your significant other. Take some time to (re)connect with the birds.
Ernie Allison is a nature writer with a particular interest in birds. He is dedicated to use his writing skills to bring awareness to conservation issues concerning birds. To help further this mission, he writes for the bird feeder provider, birdfeeders.com.