Choosing and Squirrel Proofing Bird Feeders
As Stephen King once said, “Some birds are not meant to be caged.” These would be wildbirds. The birds that though they can’t or shouldn’t be domesticated, doesn’t mean they aren’t spectacular to watch from a distance. An abundance of people enjoy simply observing birds and knowing that they pay visits to their backyard.
If you’re one of these people and are looking for a way to attract more birds to your yard, bird feeders are a surefire way to do it. Whether you’re looking to lure in a specific species, like Cardinals, Robins, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, etc, or are welcome to an array of different guests, there’s certainly a bird feeder to do it.
Bird feeders come in a wide variety of shapes, designs, and sizes. They not only attract little winged friends to your area, but they can help add a burst of life, color, and style to your home.
Choosing a feeder can be a bit tricky, but by learning about the different types, you can select the one that will attract all the birds you want! Then take the steps to make the environment extra suitable for birds!
Types of Bird Feeders
House or Hopper Feeders are a common, popular choice. As suggested by the name, these feeders take on the shape of a miniature house. Hopper feeders can hold large amounts of bird seed for several days, which is sure to provide food for longer periods of time. This is convenient for people refilling it. However, because their easy to fill design often remains open and exposed, it is at higher risk of being affected by weather if not cleaned or checked properly. If the seed inside becomes wet, it becomes a perfect breeding ground for sprouting and bacteria growth, which is unhealthy for birds to consume.
Tube Feeders are one of the cleanest options you could choose. They are either mounted or hung and come in different lengths and widths, but because the bird food is contained within the tube, it stays dry, clean, and safe from damp weather. Posts are usually located close to the openings on the tube where the food is dispensed, giving birds a comfortable, convenient spot to land and eat. Depending on how sturdy and long the posts or perches are, you can attract different types of birds. There are sometimes trays to collect any fallen seeds below the tube, allowing birds to have even easier access to the seeds and cause less waste. Most tubes are also clear. This helps people to see how much seed is left in the container and when it should be refilled.
Tray or Platform
Tray Feeders are exactly what they sound like. These platforms have no coverings and are wide open. People simply have to dump seeds or bird food onto the tray. The best amount would be enough to last a day or two. Unfortunately, because it is just a tray, the food on it is exposed to outside elements, whether it be rain, bird droppings, or other animals. The most convenient and clean tray you can purchase is one with drainage holes on the bottom or sides, allowing some of the foreign matter to be shifted or poured out. These types of feeders are so open that they will attract quite a variety of feathered friends, including Cardinals, Blackbirds, and Sparrows.
Suet is the raw, hard fat surrounding the loins and kidneys of animals. This, with insects and other ingredients mixed into it, is a traditional bird favorite. It provides heat and energy that birds need for an efficient metabolism. These are wired cages or containers meant to hold the suet cake. They typically hang from trees or branches. Most are created to be easy to fill and with coated wires that are comfortable and safe for birds to land or perch on while they eat. Some suet feeders have traditional openings on the side, while some others open from the bottom. Feeders that open from the bottom require birds to hang upside down while eating. Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Blackbirds, Jays, etc enjoy suet.
Hummingbird Feeders are rather unique. Instead of filling them with bird seed, you fill them with nectar. These feeders come in many styles and designs, but ultimately they all hold nectar and have holes somewhere in the container for birds to stick their beaks into and feed. This is because hummingbirds thrive off of the sweet nectar from flowers, which provides them with both water and sucrose for higher energy. Hummingbird Feeders just need to be cleaned and monitored for insects entering the container and flowing into the nectar, as smaller bugs tend to crawl into the small openings meant for birds’ beaks.
Another popular type of bird are orioles. Oriole Feeders are designed specifically to attract those small, singing, black and orange birdies. They like to eat foods like flowers, nectar, fruits, jelly, and other sweet treats. There are numerous feeders that are specifically geared towards attracting orioles. There are fruit spikes to securely hold fruit slices, nectar (or sugar water) containers similar to that of Hummingbird Feeders, dishes for jelly, etc.
Tips to Attract Birds
- Food - Reaching a bird through their stomach is the quickest way to keep them coming back to your yard. Once you’ve selected an appropriate feeder, try to include the following foods in your containers to either attract a particular species, or wild birds in general:
- Seeds (sunflower, nyjer, shelled and cracked corn, flax, millet, safflower, etc)
- Nuts (whole or shelled, especially peanuts)
- Fruit (apples, oranges, grapes, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, etc)
- Water - Misters, drippers, birdbaths, and anything that gives birds a place to cool down and drink is sure to attract them. This is especially true if your provided source of water has louder sounds since the sound of moving water naturally lures birds in.
- Shelter - Bird houses are excellent places for birds to build nests. This is one of the safest places they can choose to do so, especially in adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, or hail that makes it harder to build a nest in trees or shrubbery. It’s also much safer from natural predators. Plus, if it’s a bigger house that multiple birds can fit in, it’s very possible that they would huddle together for extra warmth, keeping them visiting on brisker days.
Squirrel Proof Feeders
Many bird feeders have built in designs to keep squirrels and other unwanted mammals or elements away from the seeds. But this isn’t the case for all of them. Several of the mentioned feeders are either suspended, near the ground, or mounted on a pole. This makes them prone to being accessed or climbed on by squirrels, which will gladly steal seeds and food right from the feeder.
There are several tips you could follow to prevent this from happening.
- Place feeders several feet off the ground. Also place them away from things that squirrels can climb on for easier access, like trees or roofs.
- Wired or caged feeders are also great since squirrels will likely be too big to get into it or get to the seeds.
- Change the seeds or food to something that will avert squirrels. These furry mammals aren’t too fond of safflower, nyjer, thistle, and some other types of seeds. Even try adding a bit of spice, like pepper to the food. Keep in mind though, that some squirrels are so hungry that they’ll eat anything they can get their paws on - even if it isn’t their favorite.
- Try using traps. The Hungry Puppy carries traps of five different sizes, ideal for any animal. These allow you to safely and humanely trap the animal and then relocate them! Or you can also contact local authorities to safely and efficiently handle it for you.
- Squirrel baffles are tools created exactly for the purpose of keeping squirrels away from bird feeders. These are plastic or metal domes, cylinders, or torpedoes that are attached to the pole upholding the feeder. Squirrels are unable to climb these, but rather, are only able to get inside of them. If they try to hang off the bottom, some of the baffles will rotate and spin until the squirrel can’t hold on any longer. The challenge will baffle the squirrel until they leave the birds’ food alone.
Wild birds are truly a sight to see, and the only way you can see them is by first attracting them to your yard. Start by choosing your preferred feeder (one that will suit the species you are luring, or one that is most convenient for you to clean and refill), then couple that with following tips. Choose the best seed, fruits, nuts, and other products, and provide them with shelter and water. Top it all off by safeguarding the feeders with some squirrel proof supplies, and you’re all set to go! Get ready for many feathered friends to come visit - and hopefully keep coming back!