Have you yearned for bird watching from your backyard or atleast from the window of your home? Then bird feeding should be an ideal choice. Bird feeding not only benefits birds, but also provides the feeder an incredulous joy and sense of oneness with nature. But keep in mind that bird feeders also present potential risks, such as window collisions, predation and exposure to disease. Yet safely attracting birds and feeding them can be a great hobby in itself.
Perhaps the obvious time to feed birds would be in winter when there is a depletion of natural food supplies. Yet there are species which visit the feeder during the spring and fall migrations and also during summer while nesting. Hence, bird feeding could be done year round.
Bird feeders can be incorporated into any outdoor décor in an easy and fun way. Bird feeders look great hanging on a porch, or tree nearby. They provide sustenance for birds and keep the garden healthy at once.
What is a bird feeder ?
It is a bird table or tray feeder that is placed outdoors to supply food to birds. The success of a bird feeder depends upon its placement and the kinds of food offered as different species of birds have different preferences. However, most of the birds feed on millet and sunflower, safflower, Niger seed, rapeseed or canola seed.
Ideally, there are three elements which need to be adhered to attract birds to feeds:
- Variety of quality seed
- Fresh water for drinking and bathing
- Ample cover provided by native plants.
Attracting birds to feeders occurs on multiple levels. First find out the type of birds frequenting your area. Feeders can be specifically designed to attract birds depending on what they eat and how they like to feed.
Indeed a shallow birdbath can attract many birds and yet be safe from cats. This should however be cleaned and replenished with clean water to avoid mosquitoes.
Types of bird feeders
Seed feeders are the most common type of bird feeders. They can vary from tube design to hoppers and trays. Black oil sunflower seed is especially popular with bird enthusiasts. Most bird feeders are designed to dispense sunflower sized foods, but some finch feeders have smaller openings.
To keep squirrels away from bird food, there are defense mechanisms that are adopted by seed feeder manufacturers. Whenever a heavy weight is detected, the access to the seed port is shut off. Feeders are also built in such a manner so as to offer protection from larger and aggressive birds.
There are hopper feeders that look like a house and attract a wide range of birds such as finches, cardinals, blue jays, sparrows and titmice. Hopper feeders hold a large amount of bird seed and provide a nice resting place for birds to enjoy their snack
Tray or platform feeders are open and can be placed on the ground, hung or mounted on a pole. They are versatile and can handle all types of bird feeds.
Hummingbird feeders supply liquid nourishment to hummingbirds in the form of sugar solution rather than dispensing seeds. The mixture is colored red to attract birds. Many bird lovers prefer hummingbird feeders as they are easy to fill and clean and they can be turned upright and chances of a spill are negligible.
The Oriole feeders are found in traditional orange color and they supply artificial nectar to orioles. They sport top fill, bottom fill and dish like designs. As this type of birds has unusual beak and tongue, they prefer the oriole designed feeders. Orioles also prefer fruit foods such as grape jelly, orange on a peg. Oriole feeders must be cleaned once a week and more often if the temperatures are higher.
Suet feeders are metal caged constructions with a plastic coating that contains cake or block of suet to feed wood peckers, flickers and nuthatches. These wooden logs have holes drilled out for suet to be inserted. Suet is high in fat and this keeps the bird warm and nourished during winter.
There are feeders that house birds in wired or glass cages. They are fed with electronic bird feeders that store food for a few days and sometimes weeks depending upon the feeder chosen and automatically replenished when the dish is empty.
A range of bird feeders are found for bird seed, bird food mix feeders, peanut and suet nibble feeders and for cakes and balls for the wild birds that can be hung in your garden. Stainless steel feeders that are heat, water and corrosion resistant with longevity are ideal for modern minimalist urban gardens.
What to look for when buying a bird feeder?
There are a wide range of bird feeders in various styles and shapes and sizes, but look out for the following features while buying a bird feeder:
- Weather resistant materials,
- Easy to clean,
- Squirrel/rat proof,
- Durable and well constructed.
How to make a bird feeder?
These days bird feeders come in creative designs and shapes; eco friendly ones too. It would be good to make one’s own bird feeder – a pine cone feeder by dipping the ponecone in ˝ cup organic peanut butter and sprinkling the cone with lots of sunflower and other birdseed. A few strings could be tied to the cone and hung from a low branch. Bird feeders with wood chips and nails can also be made at home.
Recycled bird feeder
- Recycled plastic peanut butter jar with screw on lid
- Lid from a large plastic yogurt container
- Rotary tools
- Washer and nut
- Sturdy string or twine
Drill two holes in the middle of the yogurt lid, the jar and the jar lid. The hold needs to be big enough to fit the string. Now make holes for the birds to feed through. Ensure that the hole is slightly bigger than a coin. Carefully cut holes with a knife and discard the plastic pieces that were cut. The bird feeder is done.
Bird feeder food
Birds eat a variety of food – but always make sure that the food in the feeder is fresh. A seed too old can be poisonous for the feathered friend. The main foods are grains, nuts (never salted), seeds, fruit and suet.
Window bird feeders
Bird watching has risen to a whole new level with window bird feeders. These window feeders are perfect for any time of the year especially during bad weather. The window feeders that come with suction cup are a great way of looking at young and old wild birds up close. These window feeders can be fitted in common work areas such as kitchen, sink, computer station etc.
The joy of watching favorite birds at close proximity is possible with window feeders. These cups in the feeders can be used to mix any type of seeds. The crystal clear designs make bird watching easier.
As window bird feeders are exposed to sun and rain, the design of the feeders must provide protection against natural elements. There are several birds including Painted buntings, Carolina chickadees, Black crested titmouse, House finch, Gold finches, Cardinals that can be window fed.
Bird feeder pole
Sometimes a bird pole or mounting becomes necessary for installing feeders for hoppers. These bird feeder poles have wall brackets, sturdy hanging poles and swivel hangers. They are made of different materials such as wood or galvanized steel. In a heavy duty bird pole, decorative branch hangers can be hung and these provide birds with a natural feeding and perching space. Bird feeder poles can be stationed anywhere in your garden and it is simple to use, as it can be pushed into the ground; wherever you want to watch the birds. Pole sets usually come with hanging hook, pole mounting base with screws, hanging hooks which are easy to assemble and use. A bird feeding station can also hold water tray and food tray so that garden birds get everything they want from a central point.
Tips for placing bird feeders
- The best place would stimulate the bird’s natural feeding preferences. For instance, if a feeder is placed in tree trunks, it will attract a wood pecker.
- Feeders in less disturbed and quiet areas should attract birds more than in active areas. A garage door or patio should be less attractive for birds.
- Birds will not visit a feeder in an unsafe area. It is better to position a feeder atleast 10-12 feet from suitable shelters such as trees or shrubs to give birds a safe feeling.
- Window collisions are often fatal to small birds, and therefore feeders should be placed either very close or farther away from the window. This way, birds cannot hit the window and get injured.
- Since birds need to see the feeder before visiting it, it is better to put these feeders in sunny open areas so that they are more visible to the passing birds.
- Feeders should be placed as far as possible from areas where chemicals and pesticides may be kept in the garden. This is to prevent contamination of bird seeds and foods.
- Squirrels can damage feeders in several ways and by placing feeders well away from trees, shrubs, fences and roofs and other such structures where squirrels can leap to the feed and damage them.
- A crowded feeder can create only aggression and territoriality among birds and this could drive them away from the feeder. Therefore, spreading feeders over a larger distance can allow birds the chance to feed and at the same time lessen the risk of spreading communicable diseases at bird feeders.
Bird watching is enjoyable at all ages and humans can help birds by feeding them during winter months when there is a scarcity of food. If a commitment is made to start feeding birds, better to stick to it year round.