This book, The Birds at My Table is, in the words of its author, ‘an exploration of this fascinating, complex, simple, sometimes compulsive human activity’, the feeding of wild birds.
Darryl Jones writes that the United Nations estimate the global bird-seed industry to be worth US$5-6 billion, growing about 4% annually since the 1980s. He has searched for information from bird feeders all over the world, including here in New Zealand, regarding the effects of this food, which is consumed by the birds on top of what they eat in their normal diet.
Studies done by researchers in countries diverse as New Zealand, the UK and parts of the United States, have shown that 40-50% of households feed wild birds from some form of garden feeder.
In 2002 a journalist writing in the Wall Street Journal headlined his piece American Backyard Feeders May Do Harm To Wild Birds with the subtitle “Feeding Wild Birds Lures Pests, Predators, Causing Illness and Distorting Populations.” Citing this article as a summary of the arguments typically fielded against wild bird feeding, Darryl Jones says about The Birds at My Table– ‘this entire book is an attempt to evaluate and respond to the issues -some legitimate, some just provocative -raised by [the Wall Street Journal’s] piece.’
The average person, buying or preparing food for the birds that live around their home, most probably has never thought further than the pleasure it brings them and the benefits it may bring to the birds. This well researched book, written by a man who takes delight in seeing the wild birds visiting his feeder, opens a window to a greater understanding of the topic of why we feed wild birds and why it matters.
The book has an extensive appendix with notes on each chapter and references to other studies cited and discussed in the body of the book. It is a most interesting book and one that has been written to gently inform those interested, the implications of a pleasurable hobby.
Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra
The Birds at My Table
by Darryl Jones
Published by NewSouth Publishing