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Bird Feeders

Seeds can be put in a variety of feeders and placed in different parts of the yard. Birds such as towhees, juncos, and sparrows prefer to look for a meal on the ground. Scattering seeds amid leaves and ground litter will cater to their preferences. (Don't feed birds on the ground if you have an outdoor house cat.) Other birds prefer feeders placed off the ground.

Types of Feeders
You can control what kinds of birds come to your bird feeders by the type of feeder you use. To discourage starlings, crows, and house sparrows, for example, you can use selective feeders. These feeders are small and have short perches or no perches at all. They invite smaller, more agile birds such as chickadees and nuthatches while discouraging the larger birds. Nonselective feeders are larger and have an ample perching area. They invite all birds regardless of their size and dexterity. Whether you build your own or purchase one, feeders come in several different styles:

Hopper Feeders
Hoppers release food as it is eaten. Seed is funnelled to a bottom tray where birds perch. Hoppers provide a stable perch that can be mounted on posts, platforms and windowsills, or hung from branches and eaves. Sometimes a hopper feeder is mounted on a pulley strung between a tree and a window, allowing the feeder to be “reeled in” for refills or to get shy birds to come closer to the house. Because they store and release seed as it’s used, hoppers offer a consistent food source with little maintenance. However, be sure the seed is not getting moldy in wet weather.


Tube Feeders
Tube feeders are cylinders that store and release seed at several feeding outlets with adjacent perches. The larger types hold enough seed to last for several days, and the clear plastic makes it easy to see when a refill is needed. Because they hang freely from branches and house eaves, tube feeders are well suited to chickadees, house finches and other small birds. The unsteadiness and limited perching space discourage larger, more aggressive birds. Tube feeders can be made even more selective by shortening the perch to 1/2 inch or so, or removing it altogether. Goldfinches and siskins are attracted to special tube feeders with slit-like openings allowing thistle seeds to be taken one at a time.

Platform Feeders
Platform feeders provide a spacious, stable perch where food can be spread out for several birds at a time. A rim around the edge reduces spilling and prevents food from being blown away. These feeders can be mounted at various heights on posts, windowsills, decks, and other structures. Anything can be put in a platform feeder—seeds, suet, and fruits. Because of their size, platform feeders are nonselective and inviting to any and all birds.

Suet Feeders
Suet feeders hold chunks of suet to prevent birds from flying away with large pieces. Commercial suet feeders are available amd inexpensive. Softened suet can be pressed into pine cones or into holes drilled in small logs. Suet feeders can be hung at least 5 feet off the ground so squirrels and other mammals can’t get to them.

Feeder placement should allow you to watch birds without being so close that your movements scare them away. Use a location as quiet and undisturbed as possible—away from traffic, noisy pets and house entrances. Feeders placed near a sliding window allow comfortable viewing and easy refilling. Don’t hang a feeder so high that refilling it is too much trouble.

Window Collisions
Many birds are killed by flying into windows. Generally, they see a reflection and a seemingly open passageway. Birds are especially prone to these collisions when fleeing from prey or when startled by loud noises. In addition, problems with window collisions may increase after a bird has indulged in its annual binge of fermented berries. During breeding season, male birds including robins, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds may "fight" their own reflections in windows.

To prevent window collisions:

  • Install black plastic garden-protection netting mounted on frames or stapled below the eaves to below the windows.
  • Attach screens, clear plastic, twine, streamers, or closely spaced adhesives strips on the outside of the window.
  • Rub soap over the outside of the window to create a dull appearance.
  • Close the curtains on one side of a large corner window, to prevent birds seeing through a corner of the house and attempt to fly through.
  • Either move the feeders farther (15 feet or more) from the window or place them next to the window (no more than 2' away) so birds don't get up to flight speed before hitting the window.

To prevent disease and poisoning birds, keep your feeders clean, dry, and free from mold. About every other week remove all seed, fruit etc., then clean and dry the feeders.

For good feeder management:

  • Buy from sources that offer the proper varieties of fresh seed.
  • Use feeders that can easily be washed.
  • Keep feeders (and birdbaths) clean by washing them in solution of 10 percent chlorine bleach and warm water at least once a month during heavy feeding times. Any solution should be rinsed thoroughly and the bird feeder dried completely before refilling.
  • Put only one day's worth of food out on platform feeders.
  • Keep stored seed dry.
  • Use feeders that are covered or sheltered from the rain and snow, and types that don't allow birds to stand where their droppings will fall into the seed.
  • Move the feeders periodically.