Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xvi

We love to feed birds. This very day, people throughout the world, from all walks of life, will willingly provide food for wild birds. The foods they offer may vary from discarded food scraps to elaborate home-prepared mixtures or expensively marketed products. These may be simply tossed onto the back lawn or presented via a complex system of tubes and platforms. Such activities may be as casual as a whim or undertaken with a specifi c goal in mind; they may be part of a vaguely regular routine or a...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xxiv

Many books claim to be on some sort of journey, either in a metaphorical sense or in relation to actual geographical travel. Many are a bit of both, traversing intellectual landscapes as well as real places, complete with unexpected discoveries, life-changing experiences, faulty guidance, dead ends, and long stretches of apparently featureless terrain. The journey may be exhilarating and fundamentally rewarding, but it is always good to arrive somewhere, even if it is nothing like what was envisioned at the start....

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1. Why Bird Feeding Matters

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pp. 1-30

The birds at my table are impatient. If I am late, they line up along the veranda railing to peer accusingly at me though the kitchen window. Do I dare make my coffee before fetching the seed container? If my delay is particularly prolonged, they may start to yell, as though encouraging (threatening?) me into action. When I open the door to step out and gently deposit the usual handful of “wild bird mix” on the circular feeding platform, they continue to grumble, staying just out of reach, until I...

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2. Crumbs to Corporations: The Extraordinary History and Growth of Bird Feeding

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pp. 31-68

Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England, is a rather unimposing place to have such a prominent role in our story. It was a dull, overcast, and drizzly day when I visited in early November. It seemed to be somewhat out of the way, up in the remoter parts of the northern Midlands, yet despite driving along a maze of minor roads in a quiet rural landscape, we passed a steady succession of huge trucks heading in the same direction....

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3. The Big Change: Winter or Always?

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pp. 69-95

It is a glorious golden autumn day, something fairly unusual for central Poland during September and defi nitely to be enjoyed while it lasts; the wind, rain and cold will be coming any day now. Skeins of migrating Graylag and Bar-headed Geese steadily cross the clear blue skies, while the hedgerows are alive with southbound warblers and fl ycatchers. My guide and colleague, Piotr Tryjanowski, a professor at nearby Poznan University, is striding through the fallow fi elds toward a huge cylindrical roll of hay, apparently...

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4. The Feeder Effect: What All That Food Can Do

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pp. 96-136

November may not be the ideal time to visit the northern part of New York State, but the spectacular late-fall colors do compensate a little for the biting cold. Massive snowfalls across the Great Lakes region had threatened to stall my travel plans, so I was relieved to see the rolling landscapes around the Finger Lakes ablaze in vivid oranges, yellows, and reds as the small plane turned to descend. There were many reasons I was looking forward to getting back to the small rural city of Ithaca: seeing...

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5. What Happens When We Feed? Insights from Supplementary Feeding Studies

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pp. 137-170

“Maggie” is the inevitable nickname given to innumerable Australian Magpies, even though many are likely to be males. They are big, bold birds, abundant throughout the country, especially within the suburbs where the landscape of scattered, tall trees and endless well-watered lawns provides ideal habitat. These birds are very well known to Australians for two main reasons: their complex and evocative territorial song (“caroling”), which seems to capture the essence of an antipodean spring morning; and, in violent contrast, their aggressive aerial assaults on humans...

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6. Tainted Table? Can Feeding Make Birds Sick?

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pp. 171-200

I have met plenty of keen bird watchers who also feed, but none come close to Frank Wilston for infectious enthusiasm and scientifi c dedication. I visited his home in a small town outside Washington, DC, late in spring and was overwhelmed by his hospitality, master naturalist’s knowledge, and wicked sense of humor. Having just celebrated his 85th birthday (and shared his cake with some excited Tufted Titmice, perched on a steady hand), Frank admits that he doesn’t get out birding in the nearby woods as much as he would like these days. A self-confessed “avid birder”...

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7. Feeding for a Purpose: Supplementary Feeding as Conservation

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pp. 201-240

It’s a long way to New Zealand from just about everywhere, though thankfully, not from Australia. For such a remote and relatively small collection of islands almost at the bottom of the planet, its place in the minds of birders and conservationists is distinctive and rightly celebrated. Tales of the decidedly odd kiwi, sheep-eating parrots (Kea), and those gigantic though extinct moa are more than enough to fi re the imagination of any keen naturalist.1 All too often, however, the reality for visitors seeking to encounter the remarkable endemic birdlife of Aotearoa (the increasingly used...

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8. Reasons Why We Feed Wild Birds

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pp. 241-262

As we draw near the end of this journey into the intimate and personal yet thoroughly commercial and global world of people and the birds they feed, it is time for a little refl ection. For me, this has been a long and haphazard path, without a distinct beginning and a far from certain conclusion. Who can say where or when a lifelong obsession really starts? Some of my key childhood memories seem to include animals being fed. I recall chaotic family picnics that often fi nished with leftovers being tossed to ducks and geese, barbecues in parkland with bits of burned...

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9. Bird Feeding Matters Even More Now: The Promise and Risks of a Global Phenomenon

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pp. 263-282

The birds at my table are very impatient. I am just back from yet another trip and there has been no food on the feeder for an entire week. That was deliberate. It was a diffi cult decision to make, but in the end, I decided not to arrange for anything to be provided while I was away. Yes, I know (I can feel the e-mails and tweets building up already), I broke the feeder’s Golden Rule: Once you start, don’t stop. And I did so intentionally, perhaps even defi antly. Was this blatant cruelty, willful neglect, or straightout stupidity? Don’t I care about “my” birds after all? After I upend the...

Appendix: Species Mentioned in the Text

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pp. 283-288

Notes

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pp. 289-302

References

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pp. 303-314

Index

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pp. 315-327