Feeding wild birds in your backyard can be an exciting yet soothing experience - especially if you have small kids in tow. However, have you ever wondered if what you're doing is legal? Here are the rules (and warnings) you need to know about.
There are no federal laws prohibiting the feeding of native birds in Australia. However, it can still lead to stiff penalties from some councils. For example, Adelaidian shoppers who get caught feeding birds at Rundle Mall can be fined up to $125. So while not strictly "illegal" you can still end up in court for throwing that kookaburra a chippie.
Regardless of the by-laws where you live, feeding a bird on your own property is unlikely to result in a fine. But that doesn't mean you should do it. The practice is strongly frowned upon by Australian wildlife and environmental authorities, and most of their concerns are backed by scientific evidence.
The NSW Office Of Environment And Heritage warns that bird feeding can cause significant problems - not just for the birds directly involved but also for the wider avian population.
"Hand-fed birds are susceptible to illnesses that can be transferred to other birds," the organisation explains on its website. "Young birds lose the ability to forage for food and when not fed by humans may starve. Hand feeding can also affect bird breeding cycles.
"Populations of some [hand-fed] birds such as crimson rosellas increase, displacing other birds and mammals that shelter in tree hollows. When currawongs and ravens are hand-fed they breed up and prey on smaller birds, causing an imbalance in bird populations."
In addition, hand-fed birds can become a nuisance with increasingly large flocks congregating on properties. Their droppings may cause the spread of germs and certain species are notorious for vabdalising anything made of wood (we're looking at you, cockies!) Discarded seeds, fruit and other refuse can also attract unwanted vermin.
In conclusion, feeding birds in your backyard is not against the law. But if you care about the welfare of birds or the environment, you should stop doing it. Don't be a flamin' galah! (...I'm fired, aren't I?)
Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.