Thursday, June 04, 2009

Attracting Wildlife: Part 1

We have plenty of cute critters in our neighbourhood and go out of our way to attract some of them to stay around. Thankfully we do not have slithery reptiles around the house like Jayne and Mary (uggh!). This week we managed to get this little chipmunk to eat peanuts from our hand. I started by placing peanuts on my Crocs and after the rodent got used to that, it started coming to my hand for treats.

The minute we go and sit outdoors, the chipmunk is right there looking for a handout. Who could resist it as it stuffs its cheeks with whole peanuts and scampers away to the yard?! I have various feeders and a bird bath to attract some feathered friends. The Red-breasted Nuthatches and Chickadees are the most tame birds and will come over when I am filling up the feeders. It is essential to have shrubs or trees near the feeders for the safety of the birds, and various fruit bearing trees are also bird magnets.

Our Saskatoon berry bush and Mountain Ash attract many birds. On Sunday I noticed a Wilson's Warbler resting in the lilac bush outside our window. This was the first time I had seen this species and it was the fourth different warbler to visit the lilacs in a week.

There are photographers will not take pictures of birds on feeders but prefer a natural perch instead. Our birding forum has had discussions about inappropriate baiting of animals for pictures. An extreme example would be the use of a fake mouse on a fishing line to attract a raptor. There are unprincipled photographers who will use this technique to get a picture of a large bird in flight.

Improperly placed feeders can expose birds to predators and disease can be spread when many birds congregate for food. Birds do benefit from supplemental foods in the winter, but we also put bird feeders up for our own pleasure.

Where is the line between attracting wild creatures with food and disturbing them inappropriately by baiting?

Next post: iPod Birding


  1. Sometimes I have trouble with the idea of feeding any wildlife. Yet I feed the winter birds in central AZ and refill a hummingbird feeder almost daily at the canyon during summer. We don't do this for the animals, it's for us. I love your captures. Just don't get bit.

  2. You raise an interesting point. I do love to feed the birds and it sure makes it easy to photograph them but I try to keep my feeders and birdbaths clean. I don't have a problem with doing that but I never heard of baiting a raptor with a mouse on a string! I find having bird feeders that attract songbirds is enough "bait" to attract raptors to my yard! Cute chipmunks!

  3. I'm interested to hear what you think about calling birds in with an iPod or tape. I have done it but only play the song once or twice and never once that bird is nesting.
    Baiting with mice is unethical in my opinion but was used quite a bit by photographers especially in northern Minnesota to capture photos of boreal owls in winter.

  4. It's kind of hard to say where ethical ends and unethical begins (in my opinion). We kill animals to eat their meat, use their skin to make leather, etc. Is it the purpose of the kill making something ethical or unethical, or is it the deed of killing?

  5. What a sight to see that chipmunk stuff that entire peanut in his little jaw!

    My feeders are, for the most part, out by the tree line in the yard. I find that to be safer for the birds, and yet, I can still sit and be filled with joy watching God's creation. I have only one or two that are closer in, and even those are placed near cover. Using a plastic mouse to bait only for photos is unkind.

    There is a fine line I suppose, and I'd like to think that for the most part, people simply want to see and be in awe, and that is not a bad thing. The more respect given, the better the species does.

  6. Tough question!! Definitely a fine line. I'm sure we are all guilty of feeding wild animals. Like you I have feed the chipmunks, squirrels and the chickadees. I'm I baiting...many people would say yes...including myself. But it's really hard to say no to those chipmunk cheeks and the little "dee dee dees" from the chickadees. Who can resist? I have no definite answer if I think it's right or wrong...but I don't think I would bait a raptor for a photo op.

    Chipmunks are the cutest!!

  7. I'm not a line sorta guy. I'm very fuzzy.

  8. I do believe that baiting birds with fake food is unacceptable. However, leaving a chicken carcass in the woods, etc., is more akin to feeding the birds.

    I also tend to be against the use of iPods or other recording devices to bring birds in. They are designed to change the bird's behavior to follow the fake sounds.

    Good points on the feeders and great photographs.

  9. It had not occurred to me to bait for photos, however, we have bird feeders that can be considered as bait.

    I'd try to bait a Chippy with a nut. How can anyone resist those cheeks?

  10. I cant imagine any of us are without blame in this bait issue..
    just different levels of baiting..Most of us feed the birds...and use nest boxes and other specialty foods to attract them.

    I know many birders including myself that will pish a bird closer. I know guides and others that play bird songs to bring birds closer...

    Where do you draw the line..what is right and what is wrong?
    Interesting debate...

  11. Hi Ruth....the chipmunk is just too cute. I saw them on another blog last year and have been smitten with them eversince.....

    I agree with your comments re photographing birds etc. The protection of wildlife and not interfering with it, is one of my priorities.....

  12. That is so neat to be able to feed the Chipmunks this way.As for baiting the birds,I don't think a feeder or two are bait,but help the birds find food more easily.

  13. When I began birding a few years ago I was aware of the controversy over feeders vs. not feeding the birds, and I turned to Cornell's Lab of Ornithology for guidance. (They keep feeders filled on their grounds all year long.)
    I think there is a good argument for bird feeding when you consider that natural sources are continually being destroyed for urban sprawl.
    You can check the FAQ's section at Cornell's site

  14. That chipmunk with the stuffed cheeks is a riot!!!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.