The Widder Curry Wants to Know Why Feeding the Birds Is Illegal?

by on August 4, 2020 · 8 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

By Judi Curry

Several days ago I read a report on “Next Door” from someone stating that it was not legal to feed the birds in the neighborhood.  I looked around my backyard and my 6 hummingbird feeders, my five bird-seed stations, and the plate of peanuts I put out to keep the crows at bay and I wondered if my life was going to change – again – for the worst.

I decided to do some research to find out if the information was correct.  And you know what? It is! Damn!

First I contacted the “Fish and Game” department here in San Diego. I asked the nice woman that answered the phone if there was someone there that could answer my question. She said that she could. I asked her “ . . . is it illegal to feed the birds” and without hesitation she told me “yes.”

Then I asked her if it was illegal to feed the humming birds and she said she would have to check.  When she came back on the phone, she told me that I should contact “Tim Daly” from the Wildlife department in Sacramento.  He is the public information specialist and he should know the answer.

After several communications with Tim, he sent me some information as to why one should not feel the wildlife.  I had trouble thinking of the birds as “wildlife” after reading the reports, but they are part of that classification.  Basically, the reasons for not feeding them, besides it being against the law follow:

The Department recommends not feeding birds for the same reasons we use for all wildlife:

  • It congregates birds together and can spread disease
  • It can disrupt normal migration patterns
  • It contributes to malnutrition of birds because the food items typically have not usable nutritional value
  • It attracts non-target animals such as rodents and predators
  • When humans add food to the wild for one species, it often brings others that weren’t intended to be the consumer of that food.

(a)  If it is against the law, then why is bird seed sold at places like PetSmart, PetCo, Costco, Amazon, etc.

(b)  If it is against the law why can I buy bird feeders, including humming bird feeders at PetSmart, PetCo, Amazon, etc.

(c)  Why are people encouraged to have feeders available for the birds if it is against the law?

(d)  If we were fined for feeding the birds, would the places that sell the food be liable for selling us something that is illegal?

(e) What is the penalty for feeding the birds?  It is listed as a “misdemeanor” but what does that really entail?  A fine? Jail time?

Just a few years ago, there was an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune that told us how to go about setting up a feeder. ((https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/lifestyle/home-and-garden/sd-hm-backyard-birds-hummers-20170914-story.html)

Also a few years ago there was an article from the San Diego Humane Society telling us the best way to set up a humming bird feeder. (https://www.sdhumane.org/about-us/news-center/stories/hummingbird.html

So what is the answer? Basically it is a misdemeanor to feed the wild life in California.  Basically it is a misdemeanor to feed every wild animal in California including the birds. And even though the activity of feeding these wild animals may seem harmless to us, eventually it may cause problems to the Eco-system; may cause disease; may bring unwanted species into the neighborhood.  The Department of Wild Life strongly suggests that the birds – and other animals – not be fed.

Looking at the situation rationally – I have 14 fruit trees and a large grape vine.  I am not bothered by the birds eating the fruit – until the figs ripen and then the crows and I have a battle on who gets them first.

Feeding the birds is not attracting the mice and rats that Pt. Loma/ Ocean Beach seems to have at this time; it is the fruit on the trees.

I certainly am not going to stop growing my fruit; and, quite honestly, I do not think I am going to stop feeding the birds. My feeders are high up on limbs that will not support a mouse or rat, and certainly not a squirrel or opossum.

The joy of seeing the variety of birds coming to the feeders never ends.  The hummingbirds flitting around as they go from feeder to feeder is a nature lovers dream.  I see them also taking nectar from the flowers and other plants I have on the premises; I still see the birds eating a tomato leaf or two.  They do not rely on only the feeders for nourishment.  I watch them drink from the bird bath; I delight in watching them bathe in the daily changed water.

With the conflict of the Department of Wildlife saying one thing and the Humane Society saying something else, I will pretend that one hand is in hot water and one hand is in cold water, and the brain just doesn’t know how to register the results.  After all, I have a lot of bird food that I have to use up.

 

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie August 4, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Please tell your readers that your photo is a rare sight – a hummingbird nest. Thanks for sharing – and BTW don’t stop feeding them! If you get hauled away, we’ll put together a fundraising page for your legal defense.

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Avatar butch August 5, 2020 at 11:06 am

It’s a great photo!

I was at a nursery looking at trees once and a hummingbird was dive bombing my head. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I pulled a tree out to look at it and noticed a hummingbird nest (with two eggs!) in the tree.

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Judi Curry Judi Curry August 4, 2020 at 12:40 pm

I will definitely keep your comments in my “law” file, but….I had great news today from Tim that might make me think I won’t need your fundraising monies. Here is what he said:

“This info came from a Capt. in our law enforcement division. Hope this can make it into your piece, and lessen any fears or concerns…

‘The law doesn’t really apply to backyard birdfeeders. The law has to do with intent to bait for the purpose of poaching. It’s not illegal to own or operate a standard backyard birdfeeder.”

And he was right – I am greatly relieved.
Re: the hummer on her nest – Took the picture on my neighbor’s tree! Exciting.

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Avatar Leonard Armstrong August 4, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Here is an example where wildlife law conflicts with everything growing in our yards. From cacti to tomatoes, we plant a myriad of garden species that feed birds, skunks, squirrels and raccoons. Even the city is guilty of planting date palms that feed protected parrots. Nearly every plant that blooms feeds hummingbirds. Maybe the law addresses food stations only and not the plants that produce it? My head hurts now.

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Judi Curry Judi Curry August 4, 2020 at 2:17 pm

I feel your pain, Leonard. That’s why I did research in so many different areas. I was so thankful when Tim sent me the update this morning – but the way things are in today’s world it wouldn’t surprise me if the “bird-seed” patrol came knocking on my garden gate! And as ironic as things are – when I went to Google today the first item on the page was how to make a bird feeder!!!!!

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Avatar retired botanist August 4, 2020 at 2:51 pm

So, just to back up CDFW a bit. It is always preferable for a wildlife species to get its nourishment from natural sources- butterfly weeds for the butterflies, nectar plants for the hummers, sunflowers, thistle and other seed plants for the seed eaters, fish rodents and other small birds for the raptors, good pollen plants for the bees, etc.
Another unintentional consequence of commercial birdseed is the inadvertent introduction of exotic plant species that germinate where they shouldn’t. Sugar water for hummers is debatable. So are peanuts for crows… didn’t you write an article last month about the voraciousness of crows?
Fruit trees, nectar plants and whatever else GROWS in your garden is great and a good contribution to the local fauna (even though fighting crows over the figs or rodents over the tomatoes might not be desired).
With bigger fish to fry, CDFW is not going to come along and cite you for having a backyard bird feeder.
Petsmart, Petco or whomever does not have a clue where their birdseed is being used. Its a legal product. But do the various species in their mix actually occur naturally in the eventual landscape? Chances are, the answer is no. I mean, peanuts grow underground so is that an indigenous source of food for crows in SD?
Rather than drilling down on the laws, why not focus on creating a cool melange of plants that all these local fauna thrive on? Sounds like your garden is perfect for just such a project!

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Judi Curry Judi Curry August 4, 2020 at 4:28 pm

I do both; feed the birds from the feeders; they frequently use my garden as an “appetizer” or as a dessert. Everyone – birds included – like to have a menu to choose from.
Seriously, I was just surprised when a woman on next door received a note, supposedly from Fish and Game, (which, by the way turned out to be a fake and probably sent by a neighbor that objected to her feeding the crows) telling her about feeding birds and the illegality of doing so. When I began asking around and found that it was illegal, I decided to delve deeper into the situation. I was glad to receive Tim’s answer this morning and saw the law didn’t apply to back-yard feeders. But I did learn something about feeding birds. Interestingly enough I am bothered with rats not around the bird feeders, but eating my tomatoes, broccoli, and cucumbers. Really a case of “dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t”.

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sealintheSelkirks sealintheSelkirks August 5, 2020 at 2:45 pm

Doesn’t anybody else see the absolute cognitive dissonance of this? I started chuckling, then I freaking laughed as I read the list of why not to feed the birds. That list was…oh my I can just hear comedians George Carlin, or maybe Sam Kinnison (much louder of course!) just taking this and running with it. But since they are both dead and we miss them I’m gonna say my piece.

That list…from a freaking species that has polluted or poisoned or used up all the fresh water on the damn continent? Just the cow poop alone…I can’t think of any river or creek or lake that I would want my kids to drink out of.

A species that has covered how many sq millions of miles with concrete, asphalt, and buildings and industrial sites and just flat destroyed the ability of the land trapped beneath the industrialized world’s layer of death-to-anything-living to FEED the other animals that live on this planet with us (but not, as it’s looking, for a whole lot longer) after we’ve destroyed their natural habitats?

A species that, even in the face of incontrovertible proof that our actions are destroying life on the planet at the rate of a 6th extinction continue to do exactly nothing worth mentioning in the long run…or maybe the short if…you know.

Microplastics in the rain AND snow? Are you kidding me? How do we fix THAT????

But one has to see the irony in that kind of thinking that created that list, yes?
____
Hey retired bot! I’ve got the first copy of my book in my hand! Publisher printed one for me and sent it for me to go over one last time while we wait for the ISBN to show up.
____
And Judi, I’ve got two double suet feeders in the apple tree out front, and four hummingbird feeders across the front porch roofline. The babies are showing up now, both Calliope and Rufous, but they aren’t used to me like the parents who tend to fly around the house and stare in the windows (including the upstairs office on the opposite side of the house) until I go downstairs and refill the ones that are empty. They zip around to meet me to make sure I’m doing my job. I think they have their favorites since a 4-seater 2-cup always goes first!

Same behavior they do when they first get here in the Spring, look for me in all the windows and STARE REALLY HARD until I notice. Who said they have bird brains? And my 8 acres in the mountains are covered with flowers from all the rain this Spring. Bees everywhere, birds everywhere, and unfortunately too many yellow jackets. But I use an old vacuum on the porch to suck them off the feeders. The hummingbirds greatly appreciate it. I think they can hear the bugs screaming as they suck down the hose!

Best to you and your garden!

sealintheSelkirks

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