Feeding Birds and Vole Damage—How They Relate

Nothing beats the beauty and movement of our backyard birds, especially during the winter months when our landscapes lack color.  One important thing to keep in mind, however, is that the bird seed dropped beneath bird feeders can attract voles.

Voles are granivores, meaning grains are their main food source.  Since the bird seed in bird feeders is a grain, fallen seeds can be a major attractant for voles.  Homeowners notice vole activity when the snow melts and the vole paths become apparent in the lawn.  Luckily, the turf rebounds with active growth in the spring.

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One aspect of vole activity poses a problem for the stability of rock retaining walls.  Voles tunnel behind rock retaining walls, which allows water in and undermines the wall’s stability.

Rather than putting away the bird feeders to minimize attracting voles to your landscape, place bird feeders over a paved surface and sweep up the dropped seeds every few days.  This will keep your backyard birds happy!

Kathleen Cue
Horticulture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension
Kathleen serves as a Horticulture Program Coordinator. She educates people on making smart plant choices to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides in their landscape which has a positive impact on air, water, soil and environmental quality, property values and people’s pocketbooks. She provides leadership and coordination of the NE Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties Master Gardener volunteer programs: the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau, and "Ask the Master Gardener" Consultations.

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