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<   No. 4210   2020-03-13   >

Comic #4210

1 Terry: I think you misunderstood me, Steve. The fire-displaced animals need food, water, shelter, and some need medical care.
2 Steve: Crikey! I don’t know much about medicine.
3 Terry: It’s good to see you know your limitations.
4 Steve: But feedin’ ’em I can do! I’ll whip up a big batch of nachos!

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I became aware not long ago that across much of the UK, Europe, and North America, it is a common thing to have bird feeders in urban back yards, filled with seed or other bird food, to attract and feed wild birds.

I thought this odd, because this is very much not a thing in Australia. The received wisdom here is that feeding wild birds is a really bad idea. I mean, a really bad idea. If you mention the idea, most people will tell you that you shouldn't feed wild birds because it's bad for them, and some people will be very militant about it, informing you that you're a bad person for wanting to feed wild birds. If you ask in online forums about feeding birds in Australia, you are likely to get crucified and told not to do it, rather than get advice on how to do it.

Official advice from many relevant authorities is that feeding wild birds is unhealthy for the birds, and the public is strongly advised not to do it at all, or only in very small amounts: WIRES Wildlife Rescue, Sydney Wildlife, Wild Bird Rescues, New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment, Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, Brisbane City Council, City of Monash Council, City of Wodonga Council. Many of these sources add that the only safe way to attract birds is to plant native flora, so the birds can forage for food among the foliage.

This attitude is so prevalent that it prompted this article in The Guardian in the UK in 2017, complaining about Australia's stance on bird feeding, and arguing that rather than demonising it, it's better to educate the public on safe ways to feed birds - because without such education, you get uninformed people feeding birds anyway and ending up giving them the wrong sort of food.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to think, because it's actually a huge change of mindset for me to think that it might be okay to feed birds. My long and deeply ingrained instinct is that wild animals should never be fed, because they're wild animals and they survive just fine without people feeding them, and that anything humans give them is almost inevitably going to be worse for them than their natural diet. I guess this is not the common attitude in other countries, but learning that has been a major revelation.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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