Feeding the birds can be hazardous to your vacation

© Copyright 2008 Tink *~*~*

Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…

– From Disney’s Mary Poppins

Virtually all of us have done it. Sometimes we’ve done it deliberately, clutching the remains of a week-old plastic bag of Wonderbread as we head off to the local duck pond. Sometimes we’ve done it accidentally, when a request to “super-size it” has resulted in spillage that is immediately pounced upon by pigeons and sparrows in the parking lot of the local fast-food joint. Whether thoughtfully or thoughtlessly, we have all fed the birds.

IMG01520This seemingly innocuous pastime has consequences that add up to much more than “tuppence a bag”. People food is bad for a bird’s digestive system. Feed any wild animal and they learn to associate humans with food. This makes them lose their fear of humans in favor of a full stomach. It can also make them lose their hunting skills and give them a sense of entitlement, to the point where you almost have to beat them off with a stick in order to eat out-of-doors in peace.

I found this sign posted on the green wrought iron fence that surrounds the Village Lake at Downtown Disney. Times past, there used to be fish kibble machines peppering the perimeter of the lake. Pump in a quarter, get a fist-full of fish kibble. I don’t know if the machines are still there. You could fling your handful of kibble all at once and watch the fish (and sometimes turtles) jump for it, or else you could drop your pieces one by one, very close to where you were standing, so you could get a good look at them as they surfaced with their large mouths open, ready to devour whatever you were dropping.

Problem, Houston. One time as we were flinging our kibble into the lake, my NIeceling and I were set upon by a mob of hungry, swooping, squawking, flapping avian muggers. In broad daylight! We had to keep walking and pretend we weren’t furtively dropping a kibble here, a kibble there over the side for the fish.

Other times I’ve been seated outside at the Boardwalk or outside the Peppermarket at Coronado Springs or even in the Magic Kingdom at Caseys or in Frontierland, and all manner of feathered fowl and fiends have milled about my feet, hopped up on the table and even attempted to steal food right out of my hand. And every time I’ve seen bad behavior from the birds, it’s been right alongside bad behavior from the humans.

Moral of the story: since we all paid much more than “tuppence” for that burger, not to mention our theme park admission and accommodations – DON’T feed the birds!

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22 thoughts on “Feeding the birds can be hazardous to your vacation”

  1. Feeding of wild animals always have to sides to it.
    In Norway, with the cold winters many species wouldn’t have survived without a helping hand.
    Feeding is however also taking up a responsibility. Once you have started feeding the birds, you gotta keep on the whole winter.
    In summer they help themselves with berries from my garden….
    From Felisol

  2. I understand the premise; but once they become so tame at parks I fear they could starve – especially in winter.

    Great post Tink!!

  3. You know that the gulls that live around here are fond of fast food fries – it seems, and they all seem to congregate in an obnoxious way in the parking lots. And wit this many birds about, the car wash just might be your next stop…

    What ever happened to the Jonathan Livingston gull, the idealized ones. You know, the ones that would pick up a clam, fly high and drop the mollusk on the rocks to break the shell to get the meat inside? Now these gulls demand your food. What ever happened to working for your next meal??

  4. Living in an urban city, we don’t see many birds. We do have quite a number of crows in our neighbourhood and we have been careful not to leave food around.

  5. Great post!! I used to feed the ducks–until I found out that bread is horrible for them. No nutritional value whatsoever and it probably fills them up so they don’t eat what they should. We actually had a couple of gulls at the wildlife hospital who would only eat junk food. Gee, I wonder where they learned that!! And have you ever gone to Walmart down here and watched the Grackles. It’s nuts. All because of us humans thinking we are doing the best thing for them. I understand putting food out in the winter if there is snow on the ground and they can’t get anything else but at least make it the right kind of food.

    OK, off of my soapbox. LOL

  6. Great photo.
    Our town recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of migratory waterfowl. We have a Canadian Goose problem resulting from exactly what this sign says. They stay, they reproduce, and the youngsters are imprinted with this as their home. It interrupts their migratory habits.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Have a great RT.

  7. Oh Thank you Tink for explaining Manic Mondays to me! I didn’t get a chance to participate this week, but maybe next!

    Hey, I have the same problems with people trying to feed my horses over the fence too! We don’t treat train them and it just causes all kinds of problems for us….but people disregard my wishes even if I have signs up! They do not digest things the way we do either….so it’s important they get the proper feed just like the birds do! Thanks!

  8. I don’t even feed my dog people food — or allow anyone else to — for this very reason. People food is mostly not even good for people, and it’s definitely not suited to the digestive systems of other species. I never have a problem with Tonka begging from the table because he knows where his food is and understands the difference between his and mine.

    And then there are the geniuses that feed large carnivores like bears and wolves. What do you suppose that big old bear is going to do when he wants more hot dogs and you’re all out of hot dogs? Way to go Einstein. Thanks for chlorinating the gene pool on your way out at least.

  9. LOL, Mojo! I feel the same way about the gene pool begin mucked up with silly people. Down here in Florida, it’s not bears and wolves we worry about so much, but alligators! Yep that’s right – there are people stupid enough to feed alligators. What do you think happens when THEY lose their fear of humans, hmmm? EEEP!

    Luanne, glad you’ll be joining Manic Monday. The prompts are definitely provocative and have provided me with weeks of fun posting ideas. With regard to your horses – you could put up a sign that says, “Smile you’re on candid camera, which is admissible in a court of law should I decide to have you arrested for feeding my horses when I specifically told you not to” 😀


  10. “set upon by avian muggers” scares the wits out of me!
    when people feed the gulls at the beach and they all swarm around, I have to LEAVE.

  11. We have a pigeon problem here because people feed them crumbs from their tables outside coffee shops. The birds are so cheeky they come right into the coffee shops and leave their calling cards. Not pleasant at all. Happy Easter Tink!

  12. I am as guilty as the next guy with the little tidbits to birds at outdoor settings. Probably because I so rarely have the opportunity I don’t realize what pains they have become. I’ll keep this in mind. I do have a problem with feeding moose though! Until my fence is done they like to help themselves to the garden! 🙂 That should be finished this summer (one can dream, can’t them?)

  13. I used to think it was ok to feed bread to the birds, ducks, etc. until I had a conversation with a DEP person who was adamant in telling me to never feed them, like the sign in your photo says.

    Then there are those obnoxious sea gulls in all the fast-food restaurant parking lots that my hubby mentioned. They shouldn’t be eating French fries!

    Interesting post, Tink.

    Happy Ruby Tuesday ~

  14. Good advice. Thank you.. I stopped feeding the birds and local wildlife years ago, it was hard to do after so many years, but I learned it isn’t good for them. So many start it here in the summer and fall, the birds become dependent on it, then they go home and the birds are lost.

    Great blog!

  15. We fed the ducks on our last holiday, I’ve learned my lesson after reading this post. Thanks for sharing it.

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