Georgia Journal of Science


Supplemental bird feeding is a widespread hobby throughout western culture. Although it brings joy to many people, bird feeding has been shown to have potentially negative effects on local bird populations and small mammalian species. To study the differences in local occurrence of native small mammalian species around bird feeders and in more distant settings, six camera traps were placed in a rural residential area in Putnam County, Georgia. Three cameras were placed facing bird feeders and three placed a minimum of 60 m away from the feeders. Species presence was recorded three days a week from 12:00 am Monday to 12:00 am Thursday between 11 November 2019 and 29 January 2020. We recorded 5,073 images of mammals during the 36 days: gray squirrels (4,264), eastern chipmunks (458), raccoons (113), Virginia opossums (65), domestic cats (54), white-tailed deer (36), gray foxes (35), field mice (22), armadillos (11), eastern cottontail rabbits (11), and domestic dogs (4). Pair-wise t-tests indicate a greater frequency of image-captures of gray squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums and cats near the feeders compared to the area away from the feeders. Foxes and deer were imaged more frequently in the area away from the feeders. Not only do bird feeders contribute to a higher visitation frequency in certain species such as gray squirrels and raccoons, species known to depredate bird nests, the elevated densities of birds and mammals in the area also attract more predators such as domestic/feral cats. This study suggests that future research is needed to investigate the effects of bird feeders on the behavior of small mammals and the magnitude to which excess predation at supplemental bird feeders affects the community structure.


A special thanks to Heidi Mead at Georgia College for her assistance with photography and James Mead for the aerial drone photography. This manuscript benefited from critical reviews by Heidi Mead, Dennis Parmley, Haley Marshall, and two anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by Faculty Development Funds from the College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia College & State University.