Risks and drivers of wild bird feeding in urban areas of New Zealand
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The practice of feeding wild birds is a widespread phenomenon, but there has been little consideration of both human and ecological dimensions of the impacts. We used a comprehensive approach to investigate the practice of bird feeding in the unique avian landscape of New Zealand. We quantified the practice and motivations of bird feeding via a nationwide postal survey, and identified ecological risks from current feeding practices. Our study confirmed that, as in many northern hemisphere countries, bird feeding is a common activity in New Zealand, with an estimated 46.6% of households feeding birds. Increased age and dog ownership were strongly associated with participation. Bread was most commonly provided; we estimated 5.1 million loaves/annum across the population of 1.8 million in six surveyed cities. The principal potential risk identified was that introduced birds are likely to be the main consumers of supplementary food sources in New Zealand, which may have follow-on effects for avian community composition. Disease transmission risks were also identified, with poor hygiene practices reported by many respondents. However, the social benefits to humans of feeding birds were strongly reflected in the motivations of the respondents. Over half fed birds because it brought them pleasure. As urbanisation increases globally, opportunities for connecting with nature decrease. Therefore, experiences such as bird feeding that increase the interaction between people and wildlife could be a powerful tool for fostering environmental awareness and guardianship. Our study highlights that without information about ecological consequences, humans may inadvertently make harmful choices for wildlife, so we recommend promulgation of appropriate guidelines to minimise the risks.
Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified