WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Selecting the right bird feeder for your yard
WILD ABOUT BIRDS
Free Press Home & Garden Columnist
Looking for a new and easy way to feed birds? You might want to try a seed cylinder. Cylinders come in differing diameters and heights, consist of a variety of seed types, and attract a wide array of birds.
They are easy to use since you simply place the cylinder on a cylinder feeder and enjoy watching the birds eat. You don’t have to fill a feeder every day and they last a long time (which is, of course, relative to the number of birds you have). They make great gifts and are an excellent way to introduce someone to feeding birds. Plus, they can be used year around.
Speaking of feeders, I get a lot of questions this time of year on the best way to keep large birds off of a feeder so only the small birds can eat. I am asked if this can be accomplished by the type of seed offered. Generally, the answer is no. The only way I have found to eliminate larger birds is with the feeder itself.
In general, what you need to do is reduce the landing area on the feeder. If you are using a tube feeder and it has a tray on the bottom, remove the tray (if it is removable). A lot of the larger birds cannot land on and eat from the perches. Another option would be to build or buy a cage that goes around the tube feeder. Using a screen with 1-1/2 inch holes allows the smaller birds to enter and eat but limits the access by larger birds. Tube feeders are also available with the screen already built into the feeder.
If your feeder is a hopper-style feeder where the top hinges up for filling, limiting access is not as easy. I have found that if you put several bungee cords or tie several pieces of rope around the feeder, you again decrease the size of the landing area. These ideas don’t always work, but you get the idea. Be inventive and let me know what you come up with.
There are also feeders available with a dome on top of a food tray. With this style, the height of the dome is usually adjustable. You can raise the dome to allow all sizes of birds to eat, or lower the dome to only allow the smaller birds in. The other helpful feature of the dome is to provide shelter for the seed and protecting it from rain and snow.
All of that being said, some people enjoy feeding all size birds. To do that, ignore all that I said before: Put trays on tube feeders and buy feeders with a large landing area for the larger birds to perch.
A feeder that works particularly well for all sizes of birds is a tray feeder. They have four sides and a screen bottom. The screen bottom lets the rain and melting snow to go through so the seed is not immersed in water. A tray feeder can hang, attach to a pole, or have legs to sit on the ground. The screen size on a tray feeder will be small enough the seed will not fall through.
Another great feature of a tray feeder is its versatility in the type of bird food you can offer in it. You can offer regular bird seed, peanuts, fruit, suet and even mealworms. A tray feeder will accommodate any type of food and is especially great for types that will not work in a more traditional feeder.
If there is a downside to a tray feeder, and if the feeder is in the open, it would be the fact that the food is not protected from the elements. From a birds’ standpoint, as long as there is food available, the birds could care less about the feeder it is in.
Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.
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