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Since You Asked: Fast-food scraps harm birds, and paint jobs

I was wondering about the "Do Not Feed the Birds" signs that were painted in the parking lot in the Bear Creek shopping center over by McDonald's.

Is it law that we cannot feed the birds? Why? If not, who put it there? What was it hurting for us to feed them? Please let me know.

— Sarah F., by e-mail

Sarah, just a few months ago owners of the Bear Creek Plaza asked the public to refrain from giving into the birds' beady black eyes and cries and instead dispose of french fries and hamburger tidbits in a trash can.

The notices on the asphalt don't have the force of law, rather they're a polite request made by the property owner because of damage done to several cars in the past year.

"Birds are going to the bathroom on the cars, therefore, damaging the cars (and) causing an insurance liability," said Aldy Damian, the property owner.

In the last few months, Damian said he has received at last three damage claims as a result of bird poo.

He said birds tend to congregate in the parking lot, snacking on leftovers from McDonald's and Wendy's as well as on scraps people give them. In return, they leave their white deposits on top of nearby cars, which can ruin the paint.

Kevin Maurice, a wildlife biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said private property owners frequently ask that people don't feed birds for one of the following three reasons: the droppings are health hazard, the birds are a nuisance or the scraps are harmful to the birds.

Besides, Sarah, while you (and the staff here at the Since You Asked Center for Fine Cuisine) may occasionally enjoy a french fry or two, birds are not accustomed to the shortening and other yummy stuff in human food, so their bodies cannot always properly digest it.

"It can be a health hazard as well as a hazard to the wildlife," Maurice said. "You really want wildlife to eat what they traditionally eat."

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