Vermont’s Frosty Feasts: Feeding Winter Birds in Vermont




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Vermont’s winter landscape is a postcard of snow-draped mountains, icy streams, and tranquil forests. In this serene setting, a dedicated chorus of birds continue their daily rhythms, seeking food against the backdrop of white.

The challenges of Vermont’s cold months can be rigorous for these feathered inhabitants, and providing them with the right nourishment becomes an act of kinship with nature.

Whether you’re a resident of the Green Mountain State or a visitor charmed by its wintry beauty, journey with us as we navigate the essentials of feeding Vermont’s winter birds.

Why Feed Winter Birds

Feeding winter birds in Vermont is a great way to appreciate bird life and help billions of birds worldwide survive the cold season. Winter feeding can also be an opportunity to witness first-hand the fascinating array of bird species, often near our homes.

Benefits of Winter Bird Feeding

Winter bird feeding has several benefits, including:

  • Helping birds survive harsh winter conditions: During winter, many birds struggle to find enough food to survive. By providing supplemental food, you can help birds survive the winter and reduce bird mortality.
  • Attracting a diverse range of bird species: By offering different types of food, you can attract a diverse range of bird species to your backyard. This can be a great way to appreciate the beauty and diversity of bird life in Vermont.
  • Providing entertainment and educational opportunities: Watching birds at your feeder can be a great source of entertainment and education, especially for children. It can also be a great way to learn more about bird behavior and biology.
  • Supporting local businesses: Bird feeding and watching can be a boon to local businesses, with an estimated $12.4 million in annual bird seed sales and a total of $65 million in all bird watching supplies sold in Vermont each year.

It is important to note that while winter feeding can be beneficial for birds, it is critical to clean birdfeeders at least once a month in order to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens. A very dilute (10%) chlorine solution can be used to clean the feeders, followed by rinsing with water.

In summary, feeding winter birds in Vermont can provide several benefits for both birds and humans. By offering supplemental food, you can help birds survive the harsh winter conditions and appreciate the beauty and diversity of bird life in Vermont.

What to Feed Winter Birds

Feeding birds in the winter can be a great way to help them survive the harsh conditions and also enjoy their presence in your backyard. Here are some tips on what to feed winter birds in Vermont.

Common Seed Types

The most common seed types used for feeding winter birds are black oil sunflower, thistle, and millet. Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite among many species, including finches, purple finches, and the red-breasted nuthatch. Thistle, also known as nyjer seed, is a favorite of finches, especially the American goldfinch and common redpoll. Millet is a small, round seed that is loved by many birds, including the evening grosbeak.

Seed Types for Specific Species

Different species of birds have different preferences when it comes to seed types. For example, the downy woodpecker and chickadees prefer sunflower seeds, while the hairy woodpecker prefers suet. The American goldfinch and common redpoll love thistle, while the evening grosbeak prefers larger seeds like sunflower and safflower.

Suet and Other Foods

Suet is a high-energy food that is especially important for birds in the winter. It is made from animal fat and can be purchased at most bird supply stores. Suet is a favorite of many birds, including woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Other foods that can be offered to winter birds include peanut butter, mealworms, and fruit.

It is important to also provide water for birds in the winter. Heated bird baths or adding a heater to a regular bird bath can help ensure that birds have access to water even in freezing temperatures.

Feeder Types and Styles

When it comes to feeding winter birds in Vermont, choosing the right feeder can make all the difference. The right feeder type and style can attract a variety of birds and keep them coming back for more. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common feeder types and styles, and how to choose the right one for your backyard.

Choosing the Right Feeder

There are many different types and styles of bird feeders available, each designed to attract different types of birds and feed different types of birdseed. Here are some of the most common feeder types and the birds they attract:

  • Hopper Feeders: These are the most common type of feeder and are designed to hold a variety of seeds. They are great for attracting cardinals, chickadees, finches, and sparrows.
  • Tube Feeders: These are long, cylindrical feeders that hold small seeds like thistle. They are great for attracting finches, siskins, and redpolls.
  • Suet Feeders: These are designed to hold suet cakes, which are made from animal fat and are a great source of energy for birds in the winter. They are great for attracting woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.
  • Platform Feeders: These are flat feeders that are great for attracting ground-feeding birds like juncos, doves, and sparrows.

When choosing a feeder, consider the types of birds you want to attract and the type of seed you want to feed them. Also, consider the size of the feeder and how often you will need to refill it.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Once you have chosen the right feeder, it is important to keep it clean and well-maintained. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintaining your feeder:

  • Clean your feeder regularly to prevent the buildup of mold and bacteria. Use hot, soapy water and a scrub brush to clean the feeder, and rinse it thoroughly with water.
  • Replace birdseed regularly to prevent it from becoming stale or moldy. Clean the feeder each time you refill it.
  • Position your feeder away from seed heads and cone flowers, as these can attract squirrels and other animals that can damage your feeder.
  • Consider using glass structures to protect your feeder from the elements and keep it clean.

By choosing the right feeder and keeping it clean and well-maintained, you can attract a variety of winter birds to your backyard and enjoy their beauty all season long.

Best Practices for Winter Bird Feeding

Feeding birds during the winter months is a great way to support local wildlife and witness the fascinating array of bird life near our homes. However, it’s important to follow some best practices to ensure that our feathered friends stay healthy and safe. Here are some tips for winter bird feeding.

Feeder Placement

When placing your bird feeder, consider the location carefully. It’s best to place the feeder in an open area that is visible from inside your home, but away from windows where birds might collide. Place the feeder at least 10 feet away from any bushes or trees where predators like cats might hide. Also, consider placing the feeder near woodland edges where birds can take cover quickly.

Preventing Harmful Germs and Viruses

Keeping your bird feeder clean is crucial to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria and viruses. Clean your feeder at least once a month with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water or a very dilute (10%) chlorine solution to kill bacteria. Rinse the feeder thoroughly with water and let it dry completely before refilling it with fresh seed. Wear rubber gloves to avoid any contamination.

Protecting Birds from Predators

Birds are vulnerable to predators like cats, hawks, and owls, especially during the winter when food is scarce. To protect birds from predators, place the feeder at least 10 feet away from any bushes or trees where predators might hide. Also, consider using a squirrel-proof feeder or a feeder with a baffle to prevent predators from climbing up the feeder pole. Finally, keep your cats indoors during the winter months to prevent them from hunting birds.

Getting Involved

If you’re interested in supporting the bird population in Vermont, there are several ways to get involved. Here are a couple of options:

The Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event that takes place in February. During this time, bird watchers across the country count the number of birds they see in their backyard and report their findings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This information helps scientists better understand bird populations and migration patterns. To participate, all you need is a bird feeder and some bird watching supplies. You can learn more about the event and how to participate at

Supporting Nongame Wildlife Fund

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s Nongame Wildlife Fund is a tax-deductible donation that supports the conservation of Vermont’s non-game wildlife. The fund has raised over $12.4 million since its inception and is used to support research, habitat restoration, and educational programs. You can make a donation to the fund directly at, or by donating to the fund on line 29 of your state tax return.

By supporting the Nongame Wildlife Fund, you’re helping to ensure that Vermont’s bird population remains healthy and vibrant. The fund supports programs that help protect bird habitats, provide food and shelter for birds, and educate the public about the importance of bird conservation.

Local businesses can also get involved by supporting the fund or by creating late-blooming flower gardens that provide food for birds during the winter months. Bird seed sales are another way that businesses can support the bird population in Vermont. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, annual bird seed sales in the United States are estimated at around $65 million.

Other local states for feeding birds:

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