Bird feeding is one of the most intimate and direct interactions one can have with nature, a global activity simultaneously practiced by millions and millions of people. At the same time, as a mutually beneficial activity, bird feeding dramatically increases the survival rate of wild birds in extreme weather conditions and helps boost the psychological, physical and spiritual well-being of humans. Here are some suggestions on how to feed your lovely friends in the garden and how to create a bird-friendly feeding system.
How to Hang a Bird Feeder
A bird feeder is not only an additional attraction to your backyard but also a powerful tool to boost the survival rate of bird offspring. During the winter times when most natural reservoirs are covered in snows, bird feeders are the only reliable food source in steady supply. But the improper placement of bird feeders may put your efforts in vain. Here are some instructions on how to hang your bird feeders in a proper way.
1.Best Time to Hang a Bird Feeder——The best time to hang a bird feeder largely depends on your motives. To get a better bird watching experience, it’s recommended to place the bird feeders in spring and summer when the birds are the most bountiful and vibrant. But to help migratory or resident birds survive winter, it’s better to install the feeders in fall and winter when they can prepare for migration or overwintering. Also, you can leave the bird feeders in your garden all year long if you don’t mind frequent cleaning and refills.
2.Ideal Location for Installation——Different birds dwell at different heights, so you can put your feeder(s) at an appropriate level to attract specific kinds of birds you would like to observe. If possible, it’s also recommended to place several different bird feeders at different heights to avoid collision and unnecessary competition and broaden the variety of backyard birds. And it’s better to place them (hummingbird feeders in particular) in shaded or sheltered areas to prevent excessive birdseed spoilage.
To avoid squirrel theft and predator attacks, the feeders should be hung or fastened on a metal pole at least 6 feet high in a relatively open area. In the case of a window feeder, it’s advised to place it right against the window or at a close distance of no more than 3 feet to lower the risks of window collision. For a better watching experience, feeders can also be installed in places where birdwatchers have a clear and unobstructed view through the windows.
3.Proper Food Choices——Different species have different preferences for specific kinds of food. Hummingbirds are more attracted to nectar or other sugar-infused bird food, while blue jays’ favorites would be peanuts and berries. But among all, black oil sunflower seeds are most appealing to a great number of birds for their high nutrition and calories. A mixture of different seeds will make a great difference in attracting various types of birds. And your food choices will also get influenced by what type of feeder you use. Safflower seeds will work well in platform or hopper feeders, while nyjer seeds will be more suitable for tube feeders. Since bird feeders have the same appeals to squirrels, certain spicy bird seeds like peppers are highly recommended to discourage squirrels from potential thefts.
When and How to Refill the Tray
Refilling bird feeders on a regular basis will increase the attractiveness of your backyard. Although it sounds very simple, it also takes brain and technique to refill the feeders.
1.Time to refill the feeder——The bird feeder may go empty within a day and even in a few hours (especially in breeding season) depending on feeder size and capacity, the number of birds and types of foods, etc. It’ll be better to refill the feeder with the least possible delay so that those garden visitors will not mistake it as an occasional treat. And it’s always suggested to refill or replace the birdseed after a rainstorm (soggy birdseed is a perfect breeding ground for deadly fungi and bacteria) to prevent mildew or spoilage, for spoiled birdseed is not only unappetizing but also lethal. Birds are more susceptible to indigestion and even death after consuming contaminated food.
2.24-hour real-time monitoring with a feeder camera——To figure out the best time to refill the food tray/tube and to recognize spoiled birdseed, you can install a bird feeder camera directly on the feeder or in a discreet sheltered place within the shooting coverage.
The outdoor bird feeder camera from Green Backyard is completely weatherproof, specially designed for outdoor shooting. It can operate under a temperature range from -20°C to 50°C to deliver high-resolution videos. Compatible with all digital devices, you can watch real-time videos on your smartphone through a free app to identify the best time to refill the feeder and recognize whether the birdseed has gone moldy. Another notable feature is its no-glow infrared LEDs to secure 24/7 monitoring without spooking the birds. Advanced with smart features like motion detection, the camera can automatically start recording when it is triggered. And you’ll get notified when the motion detector senses any activities around the feeder.
3.DIY a feeder funnel to avoid spilling——And here are some tips for you to refill the bird feeders without spilling birdseed everywhere. A simple way is to repurpose a watering can, a waste kettle or something with a slim and narrow spout that can be easily fit into any type of feeder (tube feeder in particular). Make sure they can be well-sealed (with a lid) so that the seeds won’t turn soggy in temporary storage. Another easy funnel replacement is to DIY a funnel with an empty gallon milk jug. Wash and dry the plastic jug, cut off the bottom (anywhere below the handle) and then you’ll have a gigantic scoop to shovel a large amount of birdseed and easily refill the feeder by simply unscrewing the lid.
Tips to Squirrel-proof a Bird Feeder
Feeding birds in your backyard is rewarding, but it can also turn frustrating if you don’t know how to squirrel-proof the bird feeder to prevent potential threats. Certain bird seeds like black oil sunflower seeds are as attractive to squirrels as they are to the birds. Many gardeners will fall into stereotyped thinking that squirrels are a welcome addition to the variety of backyard wildlife and their occasional visits won’t cause a problem. But your fluffy-tailed friends can somehow turn aggressive and mischievous in a food fight. They don’t share as what birds do with other visitors and they’ll deter potential competitors and hog the food tray.
Squirrels are greedy thieves and potential predators with a notorious reputation, often getting accused of their voracious appetites and domineering attitudes. They may have an absolutely deceptive appearance (all innocent and harmless), but they are dominating in nature. They have a well-known habit of hoarding food. They’ll use every possible means to empty all the tasty treats before any bird could get a bite. Then stuff the food in their cheek pouches for temporary storage and deposit it in the burrow or the ground for later consumption. And they pose life-threatening dangers to nesting birds for bird eggs and newborn nestlings are on their menu.
Squirrel infestation is always a headache for birdwatchers for it’s always challenging to deter these formidable enemies without reducing the attractiveness of a bird feeder. Here are some suggestions on eliminating squirrel theft while keeping its appeal to certain species.
1.Location——One of the most effective ways is to relocate your bird feeder and keep them high enough or distant enough to avoid squirrel theft or any form of harassment. It has been proven that ground-dwelling squirrels are great jumpers but they still have limits (5ft above the ground; 7ft from trees) and they won’t risk their lives jumping down from 9ft above. The ideal way is to hang it on a metal pole in an open area at a relatively high level away from trees, roofs, or other launching points to deter even the savviest hunters.
2.Food Choice——Another low-maintenance trick is choosing the seeds wisely. Squirrels are less attracted to nyjer and safflower seeds for their bitter tastes, so choose less appealing bird seeds with squirrel-repellent flavors may help free you from squirrel infestation for good. Unlike squirrels which are extremely sensitive to the spiciness of peppers, birds are never picky scavengers and they are totally immune to this strong flavor. Blending some dehydrated cayenne peppers or other similar spices into the birdseed might be game-changing.
3.Squirrel Deterrents——When encountering more sneaky opponents like flying squirrels which can glide between trees (the giant flying squirrels-1,500 ft), you can purchase a squirrel baffle to deter those greedy cone-gobblers from a hanging or post-mounted feeder. Or place a cage around the feeder to discourage the intruders while not restricting smaller birds from feeding. These facilities will effectively avoid squirrel theft while causing them any physical damage. And if all efforts fail, contact local wildlife authorities to fix it for you.
4.Squirrel Feeder——It may seem counter-intuitive but you can distract their attention from the bird feeder by installing a squirrel feeder and feed them with peanuts or acorns. Once they have their needs satisfied, then they won’t bother to disturb other garden visitors. Check Cedar Squirrel Feeder from Green Backyard to create a harmonious feeding system. Moreover, if you have interest, putting an outdoor camera on the squirrel feeder allows you to monitor the squirrel feeding or other unexpected activities.
Ways to Maintain Bird Feeding in Winter
Feeding birds in winter can be quite a challenge for its physical damage to bird feeders could be catastrophic. Snow and ice will block feeding ports and spoil the birdseed and bird feeders are more susceptible to collapse and falls in frigid temperatures. Given its severity, thorough preparations and regular maintenance are highly recommended to help your bird feeder withstand poor weather conditions and sudden temperature drops and provide continuous and bountiful supplies for migratory or resident birds to overwinter in your backyard.
Here are some tips to help you maintain bird feeding in winter.
1.Regular maintenance——Proper and timely maintenance is the key preventive method to spare your bird feeder some of the possible damage in a terrible climate. Adding a large baffle to the feeder could prevent accumulated snow and discourage wildlife from stealing. Clean and disinfect the feeder after each snowfall and replace the spoiled soggy birdseed. In the case of a frozen feeder, take it inside for a moment to defrost and refill it after clean-up. Make repairs or replacements if necessary to make sure the feeder is absolutely secure or fastened.
2.Reposition——Relocating the bird feeder to a covered or sheltered location to avoid frigid frosting is also an effective approach to withstand drastic temperature changes. Hanging it under the eaves or under covered terraces would not only give them a safer place to feed but also shorten the distance for birdwatchers to refill the tray. But you need to take precautions to squirrel-proof the bird feeder for birds are not the only ones attracted to an easy meal.
3.Change Regular Birdseed to Winter Seeds——Certain birds will undergo a short-term hibernation (torpor) to survive cold temperatures. To carry out such a strenuous activity, they need high-calorie foods to conserve energy to reduce metabolism. But it would put them in great danger for delayed reactions will make them fall prey to predators. So it’s better to refill the feeder more frequently and prepare fuel-efficient winter seeds like black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc. to give them an excellent source of energy for migration or overwintering.
4.Change Your Bird Feeder——If possible, you can change a winter bird feeder. Unlike an open platform feeder which needs daily refilling and cleaning, a well-covered feeder with a large capacity is a sound option to prevent snow accumulation and avoid mildew and spoilage of birdseed. Also, its user-friendly design will spare you from frequent refilling.
Hope you find this article useful, and for more information go check Green Backyard.