Please do not feed birds

Bird-brains: cockies feeding banned

Jimmy Thomson
Published: October 2, 2013 – 10:14AM


Can a strata owners’ corporation order a resident to stop feeding wild birds, and should the owner be feeding them in the first place?

The question was asked by Flat Chat reader Acid, who said: “We get a lot of wild birds around our building and I occasionally feed the cockatoos and the kookaburras from my balcony.

“They leave minimal mess and they only stay for under half an hour at very specific times of day. However we have a nasty and vindictive executive committee and they’ve asked the strata manager to write me a letter demanding that I cease feeding all bird life around the building.

“To me this is an outrageous breach of my civil liberties particularly as there is no by-law stating you are not allowed to feed wild Australian fauna on your balcony.

“The strata manager says that my feeding the cockies attracts ‘vermin’ that mess on other people’s balconies. There is no evidence of this and the strata manager will not tell me what by-law they believe me to be breaching.

“Do they have a leg to stand on here? How can I protect my rights?”

The balcony is almost certainly common property – i.e. theirs, not yours – but not having a by-law specifically banning bird feeding only means they are more likely to get you under a by-law forbidding behaviour that may cause a nuisance.

But should you be doing it anyway? Environment NSW, the government department, says no.

“Hand-fed birds become a nuisance – you may start feeding one or two birds but, within a short space of time, great flocks can descend,” says their website.

They are susceptible to illnesses that can be transferred to other birds and young birds lose the ability to forage for food and may starve.

Populations of birds such as crimson rosellas increase, displacing other birds and mammals that shelter in tree hollows. Currawongs and ravens breed up and prey on smaller birds, causing an imbalance in populations.

The same message is coming out of Melbourne. Just back in August this year the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries warned Melbourne residents that feeding wild birds may be literally killing them with kindness.

According to this website, this followed the discovery since March of last year of about 200 dead or dying rainbow lorikeets in the city’s eastern and north-eastern suburbs. The department says the most likely cause is an overgrowth of bacteria in the bird’s digestive system due to an inappropriate diet caused by people feeding them.

In Queensland, the website of the Department of Environment and Heritage protection says it is important to look beyond the short-term benefits of having a “free feed” and ask what the broader implications of feeding might be.

It warns that lorikeets feeding from an artificial food source can suffer vitamin E deficiencies leading to muscle damage and paralysis.

“Artificial diets that lack calcium inhibit bone and feather development in young birds and can cause eggshell failure,” says their website.

It cites a case study where “a large localised die-off of rainbow lorikeets in Queensland was caused by a bacterial infection that had been picked up by lorikeets visiting contaminated backyard feeding stations.”

Needless to say, the Flat Chat Forum is all a-twitter with this one (as Twitter may well be too).

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