Bird Feeders The fastest way to a bird's heart is definitely through their stomach. Put up a backyard bird feeder and birds will certainly come to feed in your yard. Where you live determines what you'll see because of differences in birds' range and habitat preferences. As words spread about your feeder, kinds of birds and size of crowd will increase. Even if you live in city where it seems pigeons and house sparrows are only birds on earth, you'll get surprise visitors that find your food or stop in on migration.
Bird Feeder Basics When you shop for bird feeders, you'll find your choices are almost limitless. You may wonder how to decide what to buy. Here are some hints.
Ease of use - The most important factor in choosing a feeder is how easy it is to use - for both owner and birds. You want a feeder that's easy to fill and that holds a reasonable amount of seed. If you are just getting started, look for a feeder that displays seed in full view because birds are attracted by sight of food and by sight of other birds eating. An open tray is great for starters.
Make sure your bird feeder has plenty of room for birds to eat without protrusions or decorations getting in way. Birds also like a feeder with a raised ledge or perch that they can grasp while eating.
Size - When birds come to a bird feeder, they want food, and they wait it fast. Choose a main tray feeder that's big enough for at least a dozen birds to eat at once. Supplement that with hopper- and tube-type bird feeders. Domed feeders are great for small birds like chickadees. Feeders inside wire cages give small birds a place to eat and peace without competition from starlings or other larger birds. Once you have one or two large bird feeder you can add as many smaller feeders as you like.
Quality - Make sure your bird feeder is well made. A sturdy, simple, but beautiful feeder costs more than you'd think. Expect to pay $30 - $75 for a feeder that will last for years.
Tray (Platform) Feeders A must have for any backyard is a simple wooden tray feeder. It's big, it's easy to fill, and it accommodates several birds. The other feeders pick up overflow and they can be stocked with treats. Cardinals, finches, jays, grosbeaks, bluebirds, blackbirds, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, and buntings all prefer an open tray feeder. The only birds reluctant to us a tray feeder mounted on a post are ground-feeding birds. A very low tray on stumped legs will accommodate these birds, which include native sparrows, quail, towhees, and doves. You can put any kind of seed in a tray except for small Niger, lettuce, and grass seeds, which are prone to blow away or get wasted. Platform feeders are also good places to put out doughnuts, bread crumbs and fruit.
Platform feeders with a roof are often called fly-through feeders. One problem with tray feeders is that plenty of seed gets kicked to ground. Adding raised edges to a platform feeder transforms it into tray feeder.
Tray feeders can be hung. A popular hanging model, Droll Yankees X-l Seed saver is protected by a dome to keep seed dry and prevent squirrels from raiding. This feeder works especially well as a mealworm feeder.
Hopper Feeders Hopper-style bird feeders with plastic or glass enclosures that dole out seed as they're needed, are an efficient choice because seed is used as needed and large amounts aren't exposed to wet or snowy weather, or kicked out by scratching birds. Many birds, including chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, jays, and woodpeckers, eat eagerly at a hopper feeder. Make sure tray of a hopper-style bird feeder has enough room for more than two or three birds to gather and eat, and check to see if feeder will be easy to clean if seed spoils in bad weather. Be especially careful if you mount your hopper feeder permanently in garden. If hopper or frame blocks tray, feeder may be very hard to clean.
Hopper feeders are not always rectangular. They can be many-sided or tubular, resembling a gazebo, lantern, or silo, and may be called by those names. A popular round hopper design is Sky Cafe by Arundale, a hanging feeder made entirely of clear polycarbonate. The hopper and feeding platform are protected by a large, steeply sloped hood designed to detour squirrels. The idea of a large dome above a feeder to protect it from squirrels is incorporated in a number of feeder designs, including Droll Yankees' Big Top.
One of most significant innovations in hopper feeders has been "squirrel-proof" models created by Heritage Farms, such as The Absolute II. Birds must sit on a rail to reach seed tray. The rail has a counterweight that can be adjusted so that a squirrel's weight or that of a jay or blackbird will cause shield to lower in front of tray.
Wire-Mesh Feeders Perfect for holding shelled peanuts wire-mesh feeders are fun to watch. Blue jays, woodpeckers, and chickadees can cling to mesh and pick seeds out one at a time. Squirrels can pick seeds too, but one seed at a time can be painfully slow. Wire-mesh feeders work equally well dispensing black oil sunflower seeds and most other larger seeds. Small, round millet grains pour through openings and are not a good choice for these feeders.
Most commercial wire-mesh feeders are tubular, but some are shaped like hoppers and may be attached to a platform where birds can perch to feed, rather than having to cling to mesh.
Mesh bags, often called thistle socks, are also available for dispensing Niger seed. Refillable socks made of fabric and disposable ones made of plastic are available. Squirrels or rain can quickly ruin thistle socks, so hang them in a protected place.