The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends waiting to put out bird feeders until December 1st to avoid attracting bears.
“Feeding winter birds is a good way to attract birds from Canada, including evening finches and purple finches, as well as resident birds including northern cardinals and black-headed finches,” said Doug Morin, head of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Bird Project. “Black sunflower oil is a good seed choice that attracts a variety of birds. Adding other seeds or suet can help attract certain species. Thistle, for example, attracts many finches. Gardeners will find it hard to leave late-blooming flowers uncut. Seeds that can also attract birds.”
While watching your bird feeders, you can take part in one or more birdwatching projects by searching for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, and Project Feeder Watch—all three gather important information for understanding bird populations.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife offers these tips for feeding friendly birds:
- Keep cats indoors. Domestic cats are the leading cause of bird death in North America, and feeders can make birds especially easy prey.
- Place feeders more than 4 feet apart or farther than 10 feet from a window. Moving closer to or further away from a window may reduce bird collision.
- Clean the feeders regularly. To eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses, feeders should be washed every few weeks with a 10 percent bleach solution, then rinsed and allowed to dry before refilling.
- Feed the birds only between December 1 and April 1 but remove the feeders if you see signs of bears. Most bears should be in their dens during this time, but some delay entering their dens, while even those that vegetate may reappear to feed if there is a period of warm weather. Bears that learn to get food from people will continue to do so, which can lead to property damage and dangerous encounters with people that can result in the death of the bear.
Feeding birds, even in winter, runs the risk of attracting bears. During the winter thaw, some bears will sometimes take advantage of the mild weather and leave their den in search of food. If a bear visits your bird feeder or someone’s feeder in your community, it is important to remove your feeder for a week. If the bear cannot find easy food, it will quickly return to its winter den.
tags: the birds