Every year, Le Nichoir receives over 3,000 visitors at the Centre and some 6,000 phone calls and emails from individuals looking for help and advice on wild birds. As a tribute to the volunteers who work so hard with us, Susan addresses some of the most common myths we hear from the public and separates the truth from tall tales.
Myth: If you touch a bird, the bird’s parents will not take it back Truth: Most birds have a very poor sense of smell, and parents will not abandon their offspring if they are touched by humans. In other words, if you find a nest of baby birds or a nestling bird on the ground, you can place the bird back where it belongs, safe in the knowledge that the parents will claim it back.
Myth: Bread is a good source of food for birds Truth: Bread has very little nutritional value and is not recommended for feeding birds. Bread fills their stomachs with poor-quality food and distracts wild birds from eating more nutritious, natural food. In the worst cases, when bread gets wet, it becomes very sticky and can have a negative impact on birds’ digestive tract, which can sometimes lead to death.
Myth: Hummingbirds complete their migration by hitching rides on the backs of Canada Geese Truth: Geese and hummingbirds migrate individually, to different locations, at different times and don’t necessarily come from similar regions and habitats.
Myth: Birds like to drink milk Truth: Birds are lactose intolerant, meaning they are incapable of digesting the lactose found in milk. Most baby birds are fed high-protein diets, such as insects, small mammals and fish.
Myth: Injured wild birds like to be held and patted for comfort Truth: Wild birds see humans as predators. People often assume that the bird enjoys being held because the bird does not struggle or try to get away. For most wild birds, playing dead or staying still can save them from being eaten by predators. Imagine if you were being cuddled by a T-rex: you wouldn’t want to move either!
Myth: Birds will die from starvation if you remove the feeder Truth: Studies have shown that birds eat from various food sources, with much of their diet coming from nature. One study showed that only 25% of the diet of Black-capped Chickadees comes from feeders; the rest of their diet consisted of wild insects, seeds and grains. Birds will also use multiple feeders on different properties; so if you remove your feeder, the birds will just move along to another one.
Myth: Bird seed never goes bad Truth: Bird seeds need to be stored in a dry, cool location. When stored properly, seeds can last for several weeks and months, depending on the variety. But seeds can easily attract pests, such as moths and rodents, so it is important to place seeds in a sealed container. Make sure to discard any rotten, moldy or wet seed from the batch.
Myth: An injured bird can survive on its own in the wild Truth: In most cases, injured wild birds must be brought to the Centre as soon as possible. A bird that is unable to fly cannot get away from predators or find sufficient amounts of food, and so is likely to starve to death or get killed by a cat or other predator. A broken bone usually starts to calcify within just 48 hours, so it is important that a bird with a broken leg or wing be brought to Le Nichoir as soon as it is found. The faster it is brought in for help, the quicker the bird also receives medication that can kick in immediately.
Myth: Placing bells on cats will scare birds away Truth: Bells placed on cats do not scare or deter birds and are not a good way of protecting birds from cats. Birds have not evolved to associate the sound of a bell with a predatory cat, so it will not scare them off.