Walking in his cornfield, novice farmer Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams) hears a voice that whispers, “If you build it, he will come.” Well, the same is true with bird feeders. If you build it, they will come!
In Part I of the article, For the Birds, we talked about how important it is to continue to feed the birds in the wintertime. There are many species of birds that still hang around in the winter, and feeding them is absolutely essential.
Equally as essential are the types of bird feeders you choose along with the maintenance that is associated with them. There are many types of bird feeders and, in general, seed-feeders fall into three categories: tray feeders, hopper feeders, and tube feeders. The ideal bird feeder should be sturdy enough to withstand winter weather, tight enough to keep seeds dry, and large enough that you don’t have to refill it constantly. Bird feeders should also be easy to assemble and keep clean.
Tray feeders are typically placed close to the ground and attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, sparrows, and towhees. You might want to consider mounting your tray feeder to a deck railing, tree stumps, or posts.
Hopper feeders are often hung from trees or attached to decks or poles. Hopper feeders are ideal for cardinals, blue jays, and grosbeaks.
Tube feeders are usually suspended from trees, posts, or shepherds hooks. These types of feeders are excellent for chickadees, finches, and titmice.
Whenever possible, place your feeder close to natural shetlers, such as trees or shrubs
So now that you know what kinds of feeders are available, it’s important to figure out where to place them. Whenever possible, place your feeder close to natural shetlers, such as trees or shrubs. But trees and shrubs are also a good jumping off point for squirrels that may be eyeing the seeds or a good hiding place for cats that may want to attack the birds. It is important to place your feeder at a distance of 10 – 15 feet from the tree or shrub to avoid any mishaps. Evergreens are ideal and provide maximum cover for birds from winter winds and predators. Window feeders are the easiest for us to observe and maintain, but birds visiting these feeders are often killed in collisions with the window.
Except during times when the temperature remains well below freezing, it is important to keep up with regular maintenace of your bird feeders by cleaning them once every two weeks. Poorly maintained feeders may contribute to the spread of infectious diseases among birds. During warm weather or times of heavy use, you may want to clean your feeders more often.
It’s best to use soap and water with a sturdy brush to scrub out the feeders. You may also choose to use a weak bleach solution to rinse out the feeder if you notice evidence of disease in your yard. Rinse the feeder well and make sure it is completely dry before refilling it with seed.
If you build it, will they come?
So the question remains: If you build it, will they come? It may take a while for the birds to discover a new feeder. If you are not seeing birds within a few days of setting up your feeder, try sprinkling some seeds on the ground around the feeder to make it more obvious. Here are some helpful tips for sustaining successful bird feeding:
- Avoid overcrowding at your feeders by placing numerous feeders several feet apart.
- Always keep your feeders clean.
- Check your feeders for safety. Sharp edges can sratch birds and lead to infections.
- Keep all bird food and food-storage containers dry and free of mold and insects.
Some people wonder what will happen to the birds that regularly visit their feeders if they go on vacation or find that they suddenly can’t continue to fill the feeders. Don’t fret, as birds can adapt accordingly. While birds rely on the seeds of backyard bird feeders, they also can revert to an all-natural diet to supplement if they are deprived of this luxury. Rest assured that your birds will not starve.
If you decide you are going to plant some bird feeders around your yard, remember that bird populations fluctuate naturally from year to year. If you notice a scarcity of birds at your feeder this year, you may be surprised at the abundance of birds in the next year or two.