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Exploring the motivations for garden bird feeding in south-east England

David N. Clark, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Darryl N. Jones, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
S. James Reynolds, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK; Army Ornithological Society (AOS), Aldershot, UK


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The feeding of wild birds in domestic gardens is one of the most widespread and popular forms of human-wildlife interaction throughout the Western World. The increasing recognition of the benefits to human health and well-being of contact with nature, especially in an increasingly urbanized world, reveals the need for a greater understanding of why we engage in bird feeding. This will undoubtedly result in enhanced benefits of feeding to both people and to the biodiversity it supports. Our study aimed to explore the motivations behind wild bird feeding in south-east England through both qualitative and quantitative approaches. This involved a two-phase process: first, the dimensions of involvement were ascertained through semistructured interviews with 30 people engaged in feeding. Interrogation of their responses was used to construct an online questionnaire. A total of 563 respondents completed this survey. Analysis of their responses discerned a series of themes with the most salient being based on or directed toward: pleasure, bird survival, nurture, education of children, and connection with nature. These findings reveal that bird feeding is underpinned by a complex array of motivations and influences involving both personal and environmental benefits.

Key words

food supplementation; human-wildlife interactions; qualitative surveys; questionnaire

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087