What happens when you stop feeding the birds?

Apologies in advance if this seems like a stupid question, I've only just recently started taking notice of nature and during lockdown I have been putting out sunflower hearts on a bird feeder tray in the garden, end of March. They absolutely LOVED it, I had collared doves, wood pigeons, songbirds, sparrows, jackdaws, blackbirds, a parakeet and even a cheeky squirrel! As word got around the neighbourhood, more birds kept coming and I found myself having to top up the bird feeder EVERY DAY. I was going through 10kg of food a month at least. This started to become quite pricey and as a result I have stopped in July. Someone told me that in summer birds are not so reliant on help for food, but some of the baby collared doves who hatched at the time I put the food out and have been feeding off it ever since, keep coming back. There's no food there and I'm worried that because they kind of born into having the food there accessible, they won't have the life skills to hunt for it elsewhere. Is this true? Will they be able to survive without me feeding them now? And what is there other food source option what do collared doves usually eat in the wild? Thank you and will appreciate any help to put my mind at ease! 

  • Hello bethc, you don't need to worry about having stopped feeding the birds as all species (except captive caged birds) are very resourceful at finding food in the wild. It may take them a while to adjust to feeders/food being withdrawn but they won't starve and will (in time) head off to find natural foods like crop seed, berries, even insects. In summer and autumn there is plenty of natural foods around for birds. Even young birds will adapt, they carry genetic skills from their parents and will not starve; like a lot of animals they have the skills of finding food, whether it be in the wild or from other feeding stations/feeders. I would say only in the severest of winter when temperatures get way below the norm that we need to consider helping them out with foods, when the ground becomes rock hard or when natures harvest has finished and the nights are far below sub zero. Generally, we tend to feed birds for our own pleasure of seeing them and no doubt it is a help when adult birds are making constant trips during the breeding season when they can have a quick top up of food themselves from our feeders as they hunt for natural foods for their chicks. It can save them time and energy although even then it is not necessary to feed them.
    So, don't worry, even the young collared doves will survive just fine in the wild. As you say, it can get quite expensive when bird numbers build up and if you attract too many birds neighbours can become a bit disgruntled with the activity, noise and problems with seed spillage, etc..


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • I agree largely with what Hazy has already written. I would also add though, 'sustainability'. Because you've only started feeding relatively recently, it shouldn't be any issue as has been said. It is, however, distinctly possible that numbers of birds reach unsustainable levels with long term supplementary feeding, so young birds in particular, would struggle to compete if food supplies are cut off. I am not a fan of bird feeding. I only used to feed during Winter and into Spring. 24x7x365 feeding just risks over reliance and unsustainability. That issue occurs every time a household regularly feeding birds goes on holiday, or is ill, dies or whatever. In less urban settings, that over reliance is probably lessened considerably.