For The Birds

The Effects of a Backyard Bird Feeder

Everyone loves the new setup: the birds, a squirrel, and even our cat.

By Catherine Matusow January 30, 2020 Published in the February 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

THE ONLY THING I NOW WONDER is why we hadn’t thought to do it before: We recently bought a birdfeeder and a bag of feed at H-E-B, then hung it out- side our bedroom window.

After a few days they found it: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, goldfinches, and one particularly intrepid squirrel, recognizable thanks to the bit of fur missing from its tail, holding on to our vine-covered fence for dear life with its rear claws while stretching balletically, if haphazardly, toward the feeder, grasping it with its front paws as it feasted on seeds and berries.

Never had we seen so much action out our window. Each morning we awoke to a show. But if we were entertained, our cat Luna was positively entranced, making little high-pitched, murderous meows as she stared out the window for hours on end, balanced on her own back paws. Soon more birds arrived, and we were filling the feeder every day.

Not long after that, we realized birds also get thirsty. You know what came next: a birdbath. I waited impatiently for them to discover it, peeking out the window. When I finally did spy a few bathing and preening in the thing ... perhaps I should get out more, but I was overjoyed.

There are those who say feeders aren’t good for birds—that they become dependent on them, or change their habits because of them. But reputable sources say that isn’t true. In fact, feeding birds helps them to fortify themselves for winter and otherwise thrive.

And the sad reality is, birds need all the help they can get. A recent bomb-shell report revealed that across the country, populations have declined by a heartbreaking 29 percent. More research must be done, but it’s not hard to see the main reason behind their decimation: humans. We’ve taken over their habitats. We’ve poisoned them with pesticides.

We don’t need birds just because they’re lovely to look at and listen to, we also need them to survive. Birds help forests replenish themselves; they spread seeds. Nature depends on them, and we depend on nature. Making our property a little more hospitable to birds—and, by the way, bees and butterflies and hummingbirds—is a concrete way any homeowner with a backyard can help.

Will getting a bird feeder fix all of Houston’s problems? Of course not. But it will help us to bolster our eco- system, and that’s no small thing. It’s also fun. Have you had a staring contest with a sparrow while getting dressed for work? I highly recommend it.

P.S. Keep your cat inside. Keep your cat inside! KEEP YOUR CAT INSIDE. Thank you.

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