BearWise #3

Remove Bird Feeders
When Bears Are Active

Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.

Bird Feeders Can Become Bear Feeders


Bird seed has lots of calories — over 18,000 in a typical 7-pound feeder. So, bird feeders can be enticing sources of food for black bears.


If you decide to feed birds when bears are active, you need to make your bird feeder bear-resistant. Visit the Keep Bears Out page for bear-resistant bird feeder ideas.


When bears are active, the best option is to remove bird feeders. However, bears in the temperate Southeast can be active year-round. Call your local fish and game agency to find out when bears are active in your area.

bear raiding a bird feeder
Photo: VDGIF

Don’t “reward” bears for coming into your yard

Wild black bears are normally shy of humans and will stay away from people and their residences. However, readily accessible bird seed “rewards” bears for overcoming their natural fear of humans and makes them likely to return.

Even if a bear can’t reach your feeder, the sight and smell will still attract them. Bears have been seen sitting under feeders for hours, trying to figure out how to get them down. While they’re thinking, they may look around to see if there’s anything else interesting at your place. Be extra vigilant and make sure you’ve thoroughly bear-proofed your home, garage, and property.

“In Florida, bear activity levels are through the roof from March until early to mid-December, and then drop dramatically.  So if there was a season where it’s OK to feed birds here, I would say from Christmas to St Patrick’s Day.”

David Telesco, Bear Management Program Coordinator
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Bear family raiding bird feeder

Check for wildlife feeding regulations

In some states, feeding bears intentionally or even unintentionally is illegal, because it creates a dangerous situation for neighborhoods. Check with your local fish and game agency for wildlife feeding regulations in your area.

Visit the Keep Bears Out page for bear-resistant bird feeding options.

This mother bear and cubs with the toppled bird feeder are in trouble! Once bears find birdseed and other human-provided food, they face a much higher chance of being removed, are more apt to be struck by vehicles, or shot and trapped (illegally or legally).

How to attract birds, not bears

Here are some proven and effective ways to attract birds without having to feed them:

Add a Water Feature

Birds need fresh water to drink and bathe, and are always on the lookout for dependable sources. Adding a simple bird bath, a fountain or a small pool with a bubbler to your garden is a sure-fire attractant. There are even water features that can be hung like a feeder. Birds are attracted to the sound of moving water; add a few flat “bathing” stones for birds. 

Shelter and Perches

Birds need places to perch and places to hide from predators. Small branching trees and bushes provide perches, shelter and an easy way for you to watch the birds. Adding a colorful windchime or other decoration to your garden will give hummingbirds a place to perch as well.

Nesting Boxes

Several species of birds use nesting boxes, and many cavity-nesting birds now depend on them because there are far fewer standing dead trees. Nest boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes designed to attract different species. Visit NestWatch.org for help finding the right boxes for the bird species nesting in your area. 

Plant for Birds

Conservationists recommend planting native plants, flowers, bushes, vines, trees and evergreens to provide birds with food and shelter from predators and bad weather. An added benefit for us: native plants are often easier to care for than non-native plants.

Brightly colored, trumpet-shaped and tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Sunflowers, coneflowers, asters and marigolds all produce seeds birds like to eat. Many attractive bushes and flowering trees also attract birds that eat fruits and berries. Nurseries can help you choose beneficial native plants that do well in your area.  

TIP: Avoid pesticides; many birds rely on insects for a big part of their diet

The Audubon Society’s Native Plants Database contains thousands of plants; just enter your zip code and you’ll get a selection of Best Choices for your area, along with photos, local resources and next steps. Your local chapter of the Audubon Society may be able to recommend experts who can help. And the Pollinator Partnership offers regional planting guides and zip code recommendations.

Sand Baths and Grit

Birds take dust baths; you can make a simple dust bath using fine sand surrounded by pavers or landscaping timbers. Position it near cover so birds are safe from predators. Birds don’t have teeth (their gizzards digest food and need grit to work properly) so they’ll appreciate a corner with sand and small bits of gravel and stone.