By now most people are longing for spring weather and sunshine, and surely our feathered friends feel similarly. Many people enjoy feeding the wild birds, so we wanted to share some tips that we hope you will find helpful. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I am happy to offer up some guidelines, along with precautions to take, but in the end, this is a controversial topic and comes down to personal choice.
People often use open feeders which attract many species of birds. Using suet feeders to feed more targeted species may be a better way to go, and we do sell the fat from our beef herd that can easily be made into a high-fat, high-energy alternative for many species. Some of the birds you will attract with suet are various woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and many others. Insect eaters have a hard time finding food in the winter and suet is a good supplemental protein for them.
Avian influenza, which has become problematic in our area and many other parts of the country, is easily transmitted across multiple bird species. If you have chickens or other fowl, having a feeder will attract more wild birds, which can increase the odds of exposure to your chicken flock. All types of fowl are susceptible and extra caution should be considered in these circumstances.
Due to loss of habitat, black bear sightings have significantly increased in our area. Though black bears rarely attack humans or domestic pets, they shouldn't become dependent on humans as a food source, as it can result in aggressive behavior and poor nutrition. Be aware of when there are bear sightings in your area which usually increase in the Spring when they emerge hungry, and also late summer/fall as they eat more to prepare for hibernation. It is best not to have feeders up during bear season. Not to worry, though; natural food is also more plentiful for birds during these times, and they can survive just fine without our help.
If you do start feeding wild birds in the winter, however, you should not stop until Spring when they have other food sources, as they do become dependent. Here is a recipe to make your own suet from our beef fat which you can purchase here in our farm store. Whatever you decide, enjoy the winter beauty around us, and the various birds that pass through as they migrate and claim territories. It can be a rewarding and very educational hobby!