It’s time to fill up your bird feeders

BIRD FEEDERS OFFER an easy and safe way to interact with wildlife but installing them after December 1 limits the potential to attract bears. Photo/John Hall, VF&W

MONTPELIER — Cold weather has arrived, and bird-feeding season as well. According to Doug Morin, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s bird project leader, winter bird feeding is a good way to attract a variety of birds, including purple finches, Evening Grosbeaks, and the perennial favorites, black-capped chickadees and cardinals.

Morin says that black oil sunflower seed is a good overall choice since it attracts many different birds, and adding food such as thistle can attract species not interested in sunflower seeds. Leaving late-blooming flowers uncut also provides food for birds.

While watching your bird feeders, you can participate in one or more bird monitoring projects by looking up the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feeder Watch — all three collect important information for understanding bird populations.

When hanging your feeders, here are some tips:

• Keep cats inside. Domestic cats are the leading cause of bird death in North America, and feeders can make birds particularly easy prey.

• Place feeders closer than four feet or farther than 10 feet from a window. Being close to, or far from, a window may reduce bird collisions.

• Clean 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 birds only between Dec. 1 and April 1 but remove feeders if you see signs of bears.

Feeding birds, even in the winter, runs the risk of attracting bears. During winter thaws some bears will occasionally take advantage of the mild weather and leave their den in search of food. If a bear visits your bird feeder or the feeder of someone in your community, it is important to take down your feeder for a week. If the bear can’t find easy food it will quickly return to its winter den.

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