Wednesday 9 October 2019
The Birds at my Table by Darryl Jones
Subtitled Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why it Matters, this is a fascinating look into the habits of people who feed birds around the world, but concentrating on UK, USA and Australia.
The author travels widely around the world to investigate the history of feeding birds across the world, how feeding birds affects their populations and distribution, how feeding can have the unfortunate side effect of helping spread diseases among bird populations and how on the other hand feeding birds can be a very important conservation measure. It also looks at the bird food industry and outlines the best sources of food to put on your bird table in different parts of the world.
The book asks questions such as:
how did wild birds originally overcome their distrust of humans to start visiting garden feeders so regularly?
what can we learn about wider human relationships with nature from studying bird feeding habits?
We learn fascinating facts such as the intimate relationship that ancient Egyptians had with birds such as sacred ibises and peregrine falcons which were seen as divine representatives on earth. We learn a lot about the importance of citizen science -for example how the USA based Project Feeder Watch was able to use the observations of people who feed their garden birds to track the spread of an eye disease amongst house finches in the USA and the how the UK's Garden Bird Watch (organised by the British Trust for Ornithology) was able to track changing migration habits in the blackcap. There are fascinating insights into how targetted bird feeding projects have made a difference to bird populations particularly in New Zealand.
The book encourages the reader to think carefully about how our gardens affect the birds that visit them, are we putting out the right foods? Does our garden offer the best mix of habitats and foods for our feathered friends?
The writing is very accessible, but the scholarly approach may mean that this book appeals more to those interested in the science of birds and our relationship with them than to those whose main interest is actually feeding the birds.
The Birds at My Table by Darryl Jones published by Comstock Publishing Associates, an imprint of Cornell University Press (2018)
Cornell University Press strives to use environmentally sustainable suppliers and materials as much as possible in its publishing.
If you're in the UK and wondering what to feed the birds in your garden there's a useful webpage here.
I'm happy to have a haiku in the Autumn 2019 issue of Wales Haiku, you can read it on this page.