Mesh feeder from Songbird Garden
When you or I learn that a storm is on they way, we fortify our pantries with provisions, make sure extra blankets and batteries are on hand, and stock up on candles and bottled water. We tune in to the Weather Channel, hang on to the words of local meteorologists, and know, for the most part, what’s coming and when it’s slated to arrive. In terms of preparedness, then, we humans have really got it easy. Not so for the winged creatures we share the airspace with.
Wild birds have a bit of a rough go of it in winter. Food supplies are already scarce, and when back-to-back harrowing storms are added to the mix, they struggle not just to eat but also to stay alive. Bearing that in mind, today’s Small Measures offers up some tips for helping out our aerial friends. Wild birds are absolutely gorgeous to gaze upon and marvel at. I can’t tell you how much time Hubs and I spend watching the neighborhood frenzy that occurs all winter long on the three feeders positioned outside our kitchen windows. If you’ve ever wondered which birds exist in your area, simply hang up a feeder and see who comes calling.
Their beauty, however, isn’t the main reason for looking after them. Wild birds are a fabulous low-fi means of insect control. If you’ve got a garden, you want birds on hand. They’ll tend to the business of picking off interlopers all summer, saving you a bundle of back-breaking work in the process (not to mention helping to steer clear of the use of harmful insecticides). Come winter, it’s time to return the favor. Severe weather, coupled with increasing development, produces a scarcity of food sources for wild birds in cold weather. A strategically positioned feeder helps them survive and thrive.
When considering a feeder, you have a number of options. Consider the pros and cons of each style, then make the selection that best fits you and your local flock’s needs. — Ashley
CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s post and her bird feeder selections after the jump!
Tube feeder from Wild Bird Habitat
Bird Feeder Styles
- Hopper Feeders: This style consists of a large, typically rounded vessel that holds the feed. Either a tray on the bottom or openings on the sides allow birds to gain access. Hopper feeders usually attract a wide variety of birds, so you’ll be able to get a real sense of who’s feathering their nest in your ‘hood. A disadvantage of the hopper feeder is the feed’s constant exposure to the elements. It can also be accessed by marauding squirrels.
- Tube Feeders: A long, hollow tube with perches of varying heights characterizes the tube-style feeder. Models are available for attracting a variety of small birds or for specializing in one specific type, such as finches. Tube feeders are good at deterring squirrels, as the seed resides inside the tube itself.
- Platform Feeders: Exactly what they sound like, this feeder style is a flat, fully accessible stand. Some models have roofs or drainage areas while others don’t. The upside to platform feeders is that a great number and variety of birds can access them simultaneously. Additionally, its surface allows for all sizes of food to be offered, from nuts and seeds to larger items, such as whole fruits. The obvious downside is that its openness permits it to be accessed by other creatures and the elements.
- Suet Feeders: This type of feeder resembles a rectangular wire cage. As its name implies, the feeder is intended to hold suet, which is rendered beef fat. Mixed with seeds, suet cakes solidify at room temperature. They can be picked up from pet supply stores or made at home. Here’s an easy tutorial. The downside, at least from my perspective, is that they can attract unwanted creatures (like bears, if you live in a forest like I do), as well.
- Mesh Feeders: Made of wire, plastic or fabric, this feeder style is accessed by pulling seed through openings in the mesh. A variety of sizes are available, including those intended to be filled with peanuts. On a completely personal note, I find mesh feeders to be the most attractive style feeder, especially the all-metal “No/No” (that’s “no wood, no plastic”) models.
Edible bird house/feeder from Terrain
Once you’ve selected your feeder, the next step is to site it in an ideal location. Consider these tips when seeking out a spot:
- Look for a protected area already housing birds, such as a bush or hedgerow. If you’re lacking such a landscape feature, make a brush pile with fallen branches.
- The south-side of your house is the most ideal spot for siting the feeder, as it provides a barricade against harsh winds. The sun’s warm rays coupled with a ready supply of food will serve as a siren song to local birds.
- Be mindful of areas frequented by cats, and hang your feeders high enough to keep birds safe.
- Since it’s up to you to keep the feeder filled, hang it somewhere easily accessible. If that’s right outside your kitchen window, great. If it’s on your porch, superb. Make it easy and make it visible, and you’re that much more likely to stay on top of keeping it filled and clean.
- Site your feeder no less than 3 feet from the nearest window (and preferably those with windowpanes). The reflection from the windows helps prevent birds from flying into them. Additionally, you might consider hanging a decal or sticker on a window lacking panels, to serve as a deterrent.
Now that you’ve chosen a style and sited it properly, you’ll need to be vigilant about its care. Here are some suggestions for helping make your feeder the busiest on the block:
- Clean it once monthly. Take it down, remove any contents and wash it with a mild non-chlorine bleach and dish soap mixture. Dry thoroughly before refilling.
- Toss out any feed that is visibly moldy or wet on a daily basis. If left unattended, this matter invites bacterial growth, which could sicken birds.
- Rake up and remove seed hulls and bird poop left under the feeder. If there’s too much snow on the ground to do this in winter, it’s fine to wait until a thaw.
Some great resources for wild bird information and feeders can be found on these sites:
I also love these roundups of modern bird feeders:
What about you? Got any ornithological tips? Beloved birds? Fantastic feeders? I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, there’s a red-bellied woodpecker outside my window whose presence begs for the use of binoculars, so gotta run!