Of country life in Vermont’s many simple pleasures we’ve learned to enjoy, a particular favorite is lounging on the October Country Inn’sbackyard deck in the late afternoon and watching the local wild birds dart back and forth among a variety of bird feeders hanging under a 50-year-old apple tree. We are constantly amazed at the variety of birds that visit our feeders. The general rule for feeding any wild animal is: do not feed when it might cause harm. With birds there are few situations in which we can imagine harm being caused, so we say, go ahead and feed the birds. We like to think that, although our feeders may not significantly help overall wild bird populations, it certainly helps the birds in our neighborhood.
However, there are other considerations. In the Spring, a time when a generous supply of bird food would be greatly appreciated by the overwintering birds and early arrivals, it is also a time when the local population of black bears emerge from their winter dens in search of food. Backyard bird feeders are an attractive food source for hungry bears during this time of year. This is an example of where feeding a wild animal does it more harm than good. It is not a good idea to encourage bears to mix with humans. Not good for humans, and therefore not good for bears.
Apart from taking bird feeders down in the Spring, there is little other downside. Our little corner of Vermont has a remarkable variety of really beautiful wild birds. On any day our feeders may be visited by the following variety of birds:
- Scarlet Tanager
- Indigo Bunting
- Northern Cardinal
- Baltimore Oriole
- Cedar Waxwing
- American Goldfinch
- White Breasted Nuthatch
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak
- Purple Finch
- Blue Jay
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Downy Woodpecker
Birds are most likely to eat where they feel safe from predators. Place feeders twelve feet from a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can quickly fly twelve feet to reach safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. A list of healthy bird food choices follows:
- Black-oil sunflower seeds are high in fat so it provides good energy. Seeds are small and thin-shelled enough for small birds to crack open.
- White Proso millet is high in protein.
- Suet cakes are commercially made to fit the standard sized feeder.
- Nyjer seed is a favorite of finches.
- Cracked corn.
We use a sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn mix in one feeder, a nyjer seed feeder, and a suet cake feeder. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to live in rural Vermont, hang a few bird feeders out wherever you live. It will provide countless hours of soul enriching pleasure, and the neighborhood birds will love you for it.