New regulations coming for bird feeders

In winter, downy woodpeckers are often members of mixed-species flocks, which helps them find food and keep watch for predators. (Elizabeth Jaffin/Courtesy photo)

LANSING — It’s that time of the year to enjoy bird feeders and the wintering songbirds they can attract. Northern cardinals, red-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, and white-throated sparrows are ready to visit.

Bird feed can attract other wildlife as well, especially black bears if they already live in your area.

Because bears have settled in for their long winter sleep, winter-time bird feeding should no longer attract them to your yard. Bears love bird seed and will visit feeders regularly when they are awake and moving about. If you live in an area known to have black bear, mark your calendars now to take your feeders inside come March.

After Jan. 31, 2019, deer and elk feeding will not be allowed in the Lower Peninsula in an effort to prevent deer gathering around a food source, which increases the potential spread of chronic wasting disease. We encourage you to use tube, hopper and suet bird feeders rather than putting seed directly on the ground or using platform feeders, which tend to attract deer and other unwanted guests.

In addition, mess-free bird seed options that can help keep the ground clean are available to purchase at stores. You also can prevent deer access to your feeders by fencing around them if possible. Review the DNR’s current feeding rules and regulations for your county at

If you have any questions or concerns about the new regulations going into effect Jan. 31, contact your local DNR Customer Service Center.

To learn more about which feeders and foods attract which bird species, check out Project Feeder Watch’s latest online resource on common feeder birds at

MI Birds is a public outreach and education program created by Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Birders and hunters share similar conservation values, but rarely cross paths. MI Birds aims to bridge the divide, and deepen Michiganders engagement in the understanding, care, and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities. Find out more at

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