Backyard Bird Feeding: Not Just for the Birds

Photo of chickadee at bird feeder.

One of the best ways to get a front row seat of our local birds is to have a bird feeder (or two, or three) in your yard. Nothing could seem less ominous than a pretty bird feeder perched by a window, but you should be aware of potential consequences for the birds and other wildlife.


Unintended Consequences
  • Crowding at bird feeders can create ideal conditions for parasites and spread of diseases among wildlife that are unnaturally congregated in feeding areas.
  • Feeding birds may also unintentionally attract other wildlife to your property, including rodents and small mammals (e.g., squirrels, raccoons) that eat uneaten seeds and grains on the ground below.
  • The presence of these animals may attract predators onto your property as they follow their prey in search of an easy meal. Common predators that are seen visiting bird feeding areas in our county include red fox and various snake species. Our 703-FAIRFAX customer service team reports an increase in residents calling about snakes in yards, oftentimes drawn to bird feeders.


Bears Like Bird Seed, Too

Black bears may also take advantage of food provided in bird feeders. There have been several recent occasions in the county where bears have removed bird feeders from residential properties, including activity in heavily developed areas of the county. Our wildlife team recommends bird feeders be removed in areas where black bears are active from April through November.

In Virginia, it is illegal to feed black bears under any circumstances, whether it is intentional or accidental, and may result in bears losing their natural fear of humans.Katherine Edwards, Fairfax County Certified Wildlife Biologist


6 Steps to Create a Safe Bird-Feeding Environment
  1. Scrub out bird feeders periodically and wash with a dilute, 10 percent non-chlorinated bleach solution (one part non-chlorine bleach to nine parts water).
  2. Allow feeders to dry completely before refilling.
  3. Rake up residual seeds and grains that have fallen to prevent accumulation on the ground.
  4. Store seeds in a cool, dry location to minimize molding that can be fatal to birds.
  5. Place feeders away from windows to prevent birds from accidentally flying into them.
  6. Remove bird feeders for at least 3 to 4 weeks if a bear visits.
Read About Other Ways to Attract Birds to Your Yard


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