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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Setting up bird feeders for backyard fun

    With winter approaching and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions still in effect, setting up backyard bird feeders can offer an entertaining distraction to homeowners who are looking for a new hobby. When considering backyard bird feeders for the first time a few questions can come up regarding what types of bird feeders are available and whether different species prefer one type over another. Also, there are questions regarding the best location for a bird feeder and how much maintenance is required to keep the birds safe and attracted to the bird feeders.

    Before reviewing some different types of bird feeders it helps to know a few bird feeder terms:



    port: the holes in certain types of bird feeders where birds can access the food.[/naviga:li][naviga:li]

    perch: horizontal peg, ledge or tray on the bird feeder where birds can stand (or perch) to eat.[/naviga:li][naviga:li]

    cling: certain species prefer to cling to and hang from the feeder rather than perch.[/naviga:li][naviga:li]

    ground feeders: birds that prefer to eat food from the ground.[/naviga:li][/naviga:ul]

    Types of bird feeders

    Tray feeders hold birdseed on a tray or platform that can be set on the ground, mounted on a pole or hung in a tree. Some are available with a dome cover to protect the seed from weather and squirrels.  In the case of ground feeding birds, the Connecticut Audubon Society says, "Ground feeding tables should be placed in open areas at least 10 feet from the nearest tree or shrub to give birds a chance to flee predators."

    Suet cages are a wire mesh cage that opens on one side to insert the suet cake. The cage is hung in a tree with a chain or a hanger depending on the model. According to the Connecticut Audubon Society, "Suet feeders can be hung from trees, from poles near other feeders, or from a wire stretched between trees."

    Tube feeders are cylinder containers with a cap on each end and hung or mounted vertically. Birds perch on horizontal perches and feed through portals in the cylinder where the seed is stored. Allaboutbirds.org says, "Styles with perches above the feeding ports are designed for seed-eating birds that can feed hanging upside down, such as goldfinches and chickadees, while dissuading others."

    Socks consist ofa plastic mesh bag used to hold suet or thistle. They are purchased pre-filled and hung for birds to cling to as they eat through the mesh. Socks are refillable and are attractive to finches and other species that prefer to cling rather than perch or ground feed.

    Thistle feeders are bird feeders specifically designed to hold tiny Nyjer (thistle) seeds. The ports are smaller than those of other bird feeders that are not designated as thistle feeders to prevent the tiny seeds from being wasted by spilling out onto the ground. They are available as tube feeders or socks. Additionally, the New York Audubon Society explains, "Especially designed to dispense thistle (nyjer) seed, these feeders have tiny holes that make the seed available only to small-beaked finches such as American Goldfinches, Redpolls and Pine Siskins."

    Hoppers consist of a covered seed storage container from which seed flows onto a tray when birds step onto the release mechanism. Hoppers can be hung or mounted on a pole. New York Audubon Society says, "Hopper feeders should be positioned on a pole about five feet off the ground and will draw all the species that tube feeders attract, along with larger birds like Blue Jays, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and Cardinals." Hoppers are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

    Wire mesh feeders are constructed of metal or wire mesh which allow clinging birds to pull seeds out through the spaces in the mesh. Some models have perches to attract both clinging and perching birds. Available in various shapes and sizes, some wire mesh feeders are similar in appearance to a hopper feeder but instead of seeds being dispensed onto a tray, birds pluck the seeds directly from the mesh container. Any bird species whose beaks are able to fit through the mesh can eat from this type of feeder.

    Window feeders are bird feeders that attach to windows of the house. allaboutbirds.org defines window feeders: "Small plastic feeders affixed to window glass with suction cups, and platform feeders hooked into window frames, attract finches, chickadees, titmice, and some sparrows." Window feeders provide a close-up view of birds as they eat.

    Maintenance and protection

    Like anything else in the home and yard, bird feeders require cleaning and maintenance. Melissa Mayntz, writing for The Spruce advises, "All feeders should be thoroughly cleaned at least once per month. Busy, popular feeders may need to be cleaned much more frequently depending on how many birds use them and how much seed is consumed." Dirty feeders can grow mold and bacteria that can make birds sick.

    Protect bird feeders from squirrels and other small animals with a squirrel baffle. Squirrel baffles resemble a small umbrella or lampshade that attach above or below the bird feeder to shield it from squirrels. Baffles can be purchased separately and attached to the bird feeder pole or hanger while some bird feeders are designed with an attached baffle.

    Large animals like black bears will also be attracted to bird feeders. Although birds can visit bird feeders all year the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) advises against it in its list of do's and don'ts in its article Living with Black Bears: "DO remove birdfeeders and bird food from late March through November."

    Setting up bird feeders in the backyard and observing the visiting birds can be a fun and rewarding hobby while remaining safe during the pandemic. Bird feeders are available in many sizes and styles from simply functional to elaborately designed and bird food can be purchased in many varieties in local stores, online or made at home.

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