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How To Choose The Right Bird Feeder

Birds in Your Backyard 101

This  article will explain the secrets of successful birdfeeding. Learn about the basic type of feeders, the different types of seed and the wonderful birds that yo

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u can attract right outside your door. We will discuss the essentials of shelter, cover and water. We will talk about creating a garden for the birds.  We will even share our secrets in controlling squirrels.


GOOD FOOD- Birds have preferences about what they eat and where they eat and they will let you know if they approve of your menu and your location. If they don’t like what is there or where it is being served, they simply won’t eat it.

GOOD CLEAN FEEDERS- Functional feeders are ones made of durable materials that help keep the seed clean and dry. They must also provide easy access for the birds to eat and be easy for you to fill and keep clean. All feeders should be cleaned regularly. Wet and moldy seed increases the chance of spreading parasites and diseases. Most feeders can be emptied and wash with mild dish soap, a touch of bleach and warm water mix. Be sure to allow the feeder to totally dry before you refill it.


TUBE FEEDERS- They are long, slender containers, usually suspended from a tree, wire or pole. Tube feeders are generally made of clear plastic and can vary in design (good or bad) and in the quality of materials. There are rugged designs that have simple assemblies (for cleaning) with lifetime warranties against squirrel damage.

HOPPER FEEDERS- They are box-like storage and dispensing system that not only makes seed available for birds on demand but also usually have a roof to keep seed dry. A hopper feeder stores seed and automatically replenishes it in the feeder port. These feeders can be made of wood, metal and plastic. Some are even squirrel proof.

SPECIALTY FEEDERS- There is many kinds of special feeders that are used to feed particular kinds of birds or specific type of foods. For example, peanut feeders, fruit feeders, hummingbird feeders, oriole feeders suet feeders, etc. are called for in certain situations.


If you ready and willing to pull out all the stops and compromise you can stop squirrels from eating at your feeders directly. Thanks to modern technology, inspired inventors and common sense, there are plenty of weapons on the market.

·        WEIGHT BALANCE FEEDERS- They shut down when the heavier weight of the squirrel gets on them. Adjustable settings let people select, according to weight, the birds that can eat from these feeders.

·        ELECTRIC FEEDERS- They either shock or throw the squirrel off when activated.

·        CAGE-GUARDED FEEDERS- Generally they are tube feeders that have a steel wire cage around them. They usually have a 1 ½” opening that allows the birds to enter and leave. Make sure the cage is at least 3” from the seed port to maximize its effectiveness.

·        HANGING BAFFLE FEEDERS- Feeders that have large dome type tops. They are effective if hung from a tree or wire, are large enough (20” diameter) and are positioned correctly.

·        BAFFLES- These are devices that stop squirrels, raccoons and possums from either climbing or reaching a feeder. Generally they can be either a pole mounted or hanging.  Each has certain requirements in order to be placed correctly for maximum effectiveness.

·        FOOD- You can feed what squirrels don’t like. Thistle for the Goldfinches and Safflower for the majority of your backyard birds.

·        FEED THEM- A hungry squirrel will always eat your birdseed. A squirrel with a full belly will sometimes eat your birdseed.



10.)                 American Crow                                 Grain, Anything                                 

9.)                    House Finch                                      Oil Sunflower

8.)                    Tufted Titmouse                                Striped Sunflower

7.)                    House Sparrow                                 Millet  (all types)                    

6.)                    Downy Woodpecker                         Suet   

5.)                    American Goldfinch                          Thistle/Nyjer

4.)                    Blue Jay                                             Striped Sunflower

3.)                    Juncos                                                            White Proso Millet

2.)                    Mourning Dove                                  White Proso Millet

1.)                    Northern Cardinal                              Oil Sunflower


*Data taken from Cornell School of Ornithology Project Feeder Watch for 2003.




NOT ALL BIRDS- In North America only about 85 of 650 of our breeding birds use cavities for nesting. But in the above list 40% of our most common birds use cavities.


BASICS- Lumber should be at least 5/8 inch thick. It should not be treated or painted inside the box. Look for screws instead of nails or staples, it will last longer that way. It should be easy to open to clean out. Perches ARE NOT necessary. The roof should overhang the entrance hole. It must have drainage holes in the bottom and ventilation holes near the top.


THE RIGHT BOX FOR THE RIGHT BIRD- Believe it or not each species has particular requirements for a nest box. Generally, they are interior floor size, interior height of the box, entrance hole, height from the ground and habitat for placement.




PLAN AHEAD- Look at your yard as a bird would. Does it provide what birds need to survive- food, water, shelter and cover?  If not what is missing? You can put out bird feeders or you can consider planting some fruit-bearing trees or shrubs. Plants that hold their fruit through the winter provide an excellent food source for birds.


WATER FEATURE- Everything from a common birdbath to a backyard pond will draw birds like a magnet. Water is irresistible to all birds!


COVER- Create edges between lawn and dense shrubs. Leave up old dead trees (if they aren’t dangerous).



  Deciduous Trees-Mulberries, Dogwoods, Crab Apples or Serviceberries.

  Coniferous Trees- Red Cedar or Spruces.

   Shrubs and Vines- Northern Bayberry, Staghorn Sumac, Viburnums, Wild Grapes and Virginia Creeper.

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