Tips on how to attract birds with winter bird feeders

Photo by Tom Rogers
Vermont leads the nation in residents who say they enjoy bird watching. Feeding birds in winter is a great way to see wildlife at your home.

Wintertime is prime bird-watching and bird-feeding season giving Vermonters an opportunity to witness a fascinating array of bird life often near our homes.

John Buck, Vermont Fish &Wildlife’s migratory bird biologist, has some tips on how best to attract birds to the winter garden with bird feeders.

• To ensure that feeders are free of potentially harmful germs, clean them with a very dilute (10 percent) chlorine solution and rinse with water.

• Position feeders far enough (more than 10 feet) from windows and other glass to reduce the likelihood of birds colliding into them. Collisions are a major source of bird mortality each year.

• Keep cats inside. Domestic cats kill billions of birds worldwide each year and birdfeeders can make birds particularly easy prey for them.

Although birds are capable of finding food in the wild, Buck said they are attracted to feeders because they are convenient.

Common seed types that attract birds are sunflower, thistle and millet. Many birds also enjoy suet. Leaving uncut blooms in late-blooming flower gardens provides a good food source as well such as growing and leaving sunflowers stand into winter, Buck said.

According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 63 percent of Vermont residents identified themselves as bird watchers at home and people in nearly half of all households in Vermont feed birds. Vermonters spend an estimated $65 million annually on all bird-watching supplies.

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