If you are feeding birds, it is probably because you like them. Otherwise why do it? While some backyard birdwatchers welcome all birds to their feeders, for many of us, there are birds that are less welcome. Some people don’t like House Finches. Some don’t like House Sparrows. Others draw the line at Brown-Headed Cowbirds. Red-Winged Blackbirds? European Starlings? Common Grackles? Your list may vary. What birds at your feeders do you consider nuisance birds?
While it would be great if you could just put up a bird feeder, fill it with seed and forget it, there actually is some maintenance involved. Wet moldy seed can collect in crevices and on damp spots and birds will eat at a dirty feeder if that is where food is found. A dirty feeder can harbor germs and spread disease among the birds that we enjoy so much.
So feeders need to be cleaned periodically. Because I have quite a few feeders, my goal is to make the process as efficient and painless as possible. I don’t want to be spending hours and hours scrubbing them. So I’ve come up with two strategies to make the process quicker and easier.
If you made me pick one bird feeder for my yard, I think I’d have to go with Brome’s Squirrel Buster Plus. It is a feeder that takes a lot of stress out of bird feeding. As the name tells you, the Squirrel Buster Plus is a bird feeder designed to defeat squirrels that want to pilfer the seed that you put out for the birds. There are many feeders that try to do this, but in my experience, this is one feeder that actually succeeds. Even if a squirrel gets on this feeder, he doesn’t do more than slide around on it or dangle. He doesn’t get to eat from it. After a few unsuccessful tries, they generally leave it alone.
My husband Jim and I went on a birding field trip yesterday. The local lakes have been mostly frozen over for weeks so most recent visits have resulted in seeing Canada Geese and Ring-Billed Gulls walking around on ice, but on Saturday the temperatures went up to around 60 so we had to get outside. I did some research on eBird to look at recent sightings to try and figure out where to go and we headed to Black Hill Regional Park in Montgomery County Maryland to see if we could find some interesting water birds.
This unassuming ground platform feeder is very popular in my yard. It’s simply a screened tray on legs. If you are a woodworker yourself, you could make one, but this particular one’s frame and legs are made from recycled materials rather than wood, so it will last out in the elements far longer than one made of wood. It’s simple to fill, simple to clean and popular with many ground feeding birds. There are some down-sides to this type of feeder, but you can get around them. The trick is finding the right spot for it in your yard.
One of the nicest gifts you can give the birds in your yard won’t cost you a dime. It’s a brush pile. While we might like to think that birds can eat safely at our backyard feeders, the birds we feed are in turn are often eaten by predators who come to the feeders to find them. Providing cover nearby gives birds a quick place to flee when a hawk soars through the feeder area or a neighborhood cat decides to come and bird watch too.
Over the summer I thought I had come to terms with the squirrels in my yard. During these warm months they would come to the feeders for maybe an hour or so in the morning and then only occasionally during the rest of the day. The birds got plenty of feeder time so I didn’t begrudge the squirrels a little food.
But once the acorn crop was finished in the fall, the squirrel activity changed. The squirrels started hunkering down on various feeders, one squirrel per feeder, for hours. Chase them away and they come right back. In most cases, squirrels are the top of the backyard critter hierarchy, so the birds were being crowded out.
The hanging platform feeder in particular had been taken over by the squirrels when it hung in a tree with a dome type baffle above it. The only way to keep them out of it was to switch over to filling it with safflower seed instead of sunflower hearts, although if a squirrel is hungry enough they’ll eat that too! What to do?