Why Shouldn’t You Feed Invasive Birds?

It’s fair to wonder why some bird-feeding enthusiasts go to such great lengths to avoid feeding starlings and other invasive bird species.

After all, birds are birds, right? And if the goal is to feed a bunch of birds, shouldn’t starlings and their ilk count the same as cardinals or mourning doves?

Honestly, it depends on your goals and philosophy about invasive species – and this can change over time. I’ve certainly gone back and forth about the issue over the years. Currently, I fall into the “try not to feed invasive species” camp, but I can see validity in the opposite approach too.

So, I’ll try to outline the major arguments in favor of each below and explain some of the species of most concern. And spoiler alert: It isn’t only invasive species you may want to avoid feeding. There’s at least one native species that many bird-feeding enthusiasts like to avoid subsidizing.

The Chief Culprits: The Primary Invasive Species Who Visit Bird Feeders

European Starlings

House Sparrows

Rock Dove (aka Pigeon)

That’s right – the common pigeon you see living in great numbers in cities is an invasive species.

Well, kinda.

I mean, the species (for varying definitions of the term) is likely historically native to east Asia, but they currently live in cities all over the world. In fact, they’ve been living alongside humans for so long we don’t have a clue where they went first or which ones were transported where. They’re fairly thoroughly adapted to living in human-built cities at this point.

I honestly wouldn’t fret if I noticed some pigeons showed up at my feeder. To the best of my knowledge, they don’t place much stress on any species (except for, arguably, humans in some cases).

And no matter what the specie’s overall environmental impact is, those six pigeons that show up at my feeder certainly didn’t do anything wrong. They’re just birds trying to make their way in the world, man.

I don’t really begrudge these (hypothetical) birds some seed, if they want it.

House Finch

Special Note: As I’ve mentioned in other articles in the bird-feeding series, we’re primarily talking about birds in the eastern half of the United States (and southern Canada). Species assemblages in the arid west differ from those in the east. 

An Interesting Outlier: A Native Species You May Not Want to Visit

One Side of the Coin: Try Not to Feed Invasive or Ecologically Disruptive Bird Species

The Other Side of the Coin: Feed ‘Em All – They Didn’t Do Anything to You

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Again, you’ll simply need to decide whether you want to go to great lengths to discourage starlings and other problematic species, or if you just intend to welcome all feathered visitors. You may also decide to take a middle-of-the-road approach, and do everything easy you can to avoid attracting invasive species, but stopping short of spending as much time, money or effort as you’d need to completely deter starlings and similar species.

Like I said, I’m currently doing my best to avoid feeding invasive species, but there’s no guarantee I won’t change my mind again about the issue.

And not to get too philosophical, but I think that’s a good place to be. I’m pretty confident in my decision, but I’m open to changing my mind. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

I wish I felt similarly about many other issues.

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