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Feeding the Birds in Our Landscape

Winter weather is for the birds!

All puns aside, for those of us who love the outdoors, winter can be a challenge. One way to continue enjoying life outside is feeding birds. Armed with some basic information, you can help our feathered friends find food and find fun, yourself, as well.

Lifting the Request to Not Feed

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Hoosiers can once again feed birds. In May, reports of birds experiencing swollen eyes, discharge around the eyes, and neurological problems, ultimately leading to death, began to surface. Because it was believed an infectious agent was to blame for the issue, Hoosiers were asked to stop use of their bird feeders; the avian version of social distancing was put in place when 750 cases of the illness were discovered in 76 counties. Now that restrictions have been lifted, we can once again look at supplying for our feathered friends, and do so in a manner that both respects their health and supplements their culinary supplies during a time that might otherwise present scarcity.

How to Feed Safely

Achieving a safe, healthy feeding event is of utmost priority. The U. S. Department of Fish and Wildlife (FWS) offers the following points should you choose to engage in the activity.

  • First, they suggest cleaning the feeder at least every two weeks; a simple solution of bleach water can kill germs that might lead to illness.
  • Next, they offer removing bird seed that has been kicked out of feeder(s) onto the ground, an action that has the bonus benefit of removing temptation for raccoons, predators, and rodents. Any seed that has molded or obviously gone bad should also be discarded.
  • FWS suggests keeping an eye open for general lack of wellness, specifically those symptoms of the mysterious illness, removing the feeders at the first sign of any of any illness.
  • Unfortunately, fans of felines keep company with one of the chief killers of birds; in the U.S. and Canada combined, cats kill 6.5 million birds each year. You might want to reconsider feeding at all if kitty is a current resident.
  • Another human-based danger can be mitigated with relative ease in selection of feeder location. If you wish to feed birds so that you might watch them, keeping the feeder about three feet from reflective windows is safest. Research suggests that the range of 15 to 30 feet poses the greatest danger for birds flying into the mirror-like surfaces.
  • We also have the option to go to public, natural grounds to enjoy avian adventures; parks and nature preserves frequently have well-maintained feeders that safely attract birds, with no need for our labors, leaving time for us more time to plan a summer’s garden!
  • Should inclusion of feeding be something you wish to tackle, FWS recommends doing some advanced research to make sure you understand some less-rosy outcomes to the hobby.

Citizen Science

If your zeal to share scientific information with the public carries through time when it is too cold to be out growing things, some work with Project FeederWatch might be for you! Check out for more information about joining, feeders, and data the organization collects.

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