State wildlife officials offer winter bird-feeding tips

Photo courtesy of Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Birds like black sunflower seeds best.

It’s that time of year for Vermonters to put up their bird feeders. With that in mind, Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials recommend some bird-feeding basics.

John Buck, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s migratory bird biologist, said in a statement that people should only feed birds during the winter months to avoid attracting bears. Bears are very fond of suet and bird seed, especially black oil sunflower seed. Bringing feeders in at night doesn’t work, because bears will still feed on seed that is spilled on the ground, and bears can also be active during the daylight hours, he said. Bears that are lured by bird feeders can become unafraid of people, which can result in the bear needing to be put down.

Fish and Wildlife recommends a feeding window of December through the end of March, but Buck said to wait for 4 to 6 inches of snow before putting out a feeder. That will lessen the chances of bears visiting your property before their long winter nap.

According to Buck, the best food for native species is black sunflower seeds sold at local hardware stores. While this food source isn’t necessary for the survival of birds, it is a good way for local animal lovers to connect with nature Buck said. Maintenance of the feeders was recommended as not cleaning up can cause specific bird species to develop certain bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses.

State officials estimate that half of all Vermonters have a bird feeder, contributing $65 million to the state economy.

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