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.
I have two of these feeders, purchased at different times last year from Amazon. I wanted something to keep birdseed off the ground where it can mold and rot or germinate in the lawn. When each one arrived, I simply pulled it out of the box, plopped it outside and filled it with seed. The metal mesh bottom is fairly fine, allowing water to flow through, but most seed doesn’t slip through. (Tiny white millet seed can make it through the holes but sunflower seed and safflower seed does not.)
The biggest issue with this type of feeder is that the seed is completely exposed, so if it rains or snows, the seed gets wet and clumps up. Wet seed can mold and rot, so during a wet period, you can waste seed. For a while, I would put black-oil sunflower seed in this feeder, making it popular with all kinds of birds . . . and squirrels. When it got wet, if the rest of the day was going to be warm and dry, I would spread the wet seed on a sidewalk for the birds to eat before it when bad and would re-fill the feeder. I’d clean up the sunflower seed shells off the sidewalk the next day. It was a hassle. You can use sunflower hearts (hulled sunflower seed) but without any protection from a shell, it breaks down and almost melts in the rain. Yuck. Safflower seed does a little better and is also less popular with squirrels.
Another issue is that, being completely open, the birds eating here are a target for hawks like Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-Shined Hawks that haunt bird feeders. Placing the feeder a few feet from some cover gives the birds at the feeder a chance to get to safety when the hawks swing by. Hawks have to eat too, but when they hang out in your yard all the time, the rest of the birds are not happy.
So, what is the best way to use these feeders? I have two. The first is on my back step, positioned under another hanging bird feeder. The back step is partially covered, giving this ground feeder some protection from the elements as well as from the local hawks. The feeder above it is popular with House Finches who are pretty messy eaters. They seem to drop as much as they eat. So now they drop it into the ground feeder where other birds eat it instead of on the step where it makes a mess. It doesn’t catch every stray seed, but it’s a lot neater. It also is a handy feeder for those snowy days when the birds seem frantically hungry so you want to put something out for them right away, but you want to get a cup of coffee down before suiting up to clear off the other bird feeders. Being right next to a busy door is not the most ideal location for a bird feeder, but the benefits in this case seem to outweigh this.
The second feeder is also protected and is probably the most popular feeder in the yard. We had an old unused picnic table sitting off to one side of the yard. I pulled it over within several feet of a tangle of wisteria that is popular with the birds. Then I put a piece of heavy plastic over the top of the table so that rain or snow wouldn’t creep between the boards of the table, weighing down the plastic with pieces of wood. Then I put the feeder underneath. The birds absolutely love it. (You might do something similar with a large chair, a garden bench or some other type of table.)
I fill this feeder with safflower seed. It is rare to see it without a Cardinal in it and there is usually half a dozen with more waiting their turn in the wisteria tangle. The Mourning Doves also like it; when they show up, there is usually at least a dozen in and around it. White-Throated Sparrows, House Finches and Carolina Wrens are also daily visitors. Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brown-Headed Cowbirds also show up in force to use it when it snows. Because it is filled with safflower seed, the squirrels mostly stay out of it except when they are really hungry.
Because the feeder is hidden under the table, it makes the birds using it a much less appealing target for the neighborhood hawks. It also is less exposed to the elements and so doesn’t get wet quite as quickly as a feeder out under the sky.
The two feeders I have were both purchased from Amazon. (Backyard Boys Platform Feeder on Amazon). They are well-made and should last a long time. They are large (17” x 13” x 6”) and so can accommodate several birds at a time. The metal mesh bottom is attached to the frame and not removable, but I actually like that. I have another similar feeder with a removable screen and the seed creeps out along the edges and it is actually more trouble to clean. Sometimes simple is better. To clean this one, you simply flip it over and knock any clumps of seed out. A quick hard spray with a garden hose is usually the most it needs. These feeders are sturdy but not particularly heavy (about five pounds) and so are easy to move around to wherever you want them. I’m using them for seed, but I’m thinking they might be used to offer other food as well – maybe fruit or mealworms?
I would definitely buy these again. It took me a little time to find the right spot and the right seed for each of them, but they are great feeders and are very popular with the birds.
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