Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wild Bird Feeding Station

I think all the wild birds who regularly visit my backyard somehow knew it was the great backyard bird count last weekend, and hid until it was over! Then again we did have extremely high winds Friday and Saturday, followed by more snow. But nevertheless, I count my backyard birds nearly every weekend for Project FeederWatch. (If you would like to know more about Project FeederWatch, please click here for a previous post.) Describing your site is required for Project Feeder Watch. It includes details such as sea level, nearby areas of land, the presence of cats and dogs, neighboring mature trees, types of bird feeders, neighboring bird feeders, number of fruit bearing shrubs, etc. So, I thought I would share with you the site I watch from my kitchen window. Here it is on a snowy day (taken through the back door so the birds – flocks of finches, redpolls, and sparrows – would stay in action).

I have a total of eight bird feeders on my site within my view. Above are feeders one through five:

1. Niger seed feeder. This is a little bit of a custom job. The sides are mesh screens the birds can cling to, but birds didn't care to cling to this feeder too often so I added the perches on the teak sides from an old tube feeder. Now this feeder gets plenty of action. I love the curved copper roof.

2. Cattail feeders. My mom gave me these as a gift and I was surprised at how much the birds love these! I fill them with black oil sunflower seeds. I love that they are also a wire mesh so the seed airs.

3. Recycled suet feeder hanging off shed. This seems to be the preferred suet feeder for visiting downys, hairys, nuthatches and chickadees. I usually have a problem with starlings raiding this feeder but they have been amazingly absent this year, or they just haven't arrived yet, so this feeder is still up.

4. Caged tube feeder. This I fill with black oil sunflower sometimes mixed in layers with other varieties.

5. Steel magnum feeder. By far the feeder of choice for all birds. All birds love this feeder. If I happen to attract a migrating bird, I'll find it at this feeder. I fill it with black oil sunflower seed sometimes mixed with safflower seed or straight safflower seed if the grackles in the summer get out of hand.

6. Upside down suet feeder. My dad made me this for Christmas one year. I leave this one up year round, away from any main branches and high enough off the ground so starlings have a difficult time with it. Now and then they still attempt to fly underneath it to try to get the suet, but it is not easy.

7. Another suet feeder. A gift from my niece. I love its copper top. The chickadees like this one. I usually don't have it up during the summer.

8. Woodpecker feeder. This feeder does not have any perches and is designed for clinging birds such as woodpeckers. I try to fill it with woodpecker feed or suet nuggets. The house sparrows somehow manage to get at it anyway, but it is starling proof. The nuthatches like this feeder. I only hang this feeder during winter. It is replaced with a hanging bird house in the spring.

I also have two heated bird baths.

This one (marked by the yellow dot) is just a plastic tub with a heater in it under a rock. The birds usually drink at this one.

This one is a self-contained heated tray that came with a stand I could attach to the deck. The birds barely visited the deck last year. I think it is too exposed. This year I ditched the stand and put it on one of my tree stumps. The birds love to bathe in this one as they can quickly find cover in the spruce if needed.

I have had to be creative in my choice of feeders here in the village. As you might have guessed by now, there are some aggressive birds here: grackles, house sparrows, and starlings. Unbelievably, in the summer I have many red-winged black birds but they are fairly mild mannered. They should be here by the second week in March according to last year's calendar – not too far away! I used to have hopper feeders and a tray feeder in Maine but here, they are a grackle magnet. So I have experimented with more tube-style, cage, and perchless feeders. (The steel magnum I could not part with and leave it up with hopes that a cardinal or rose-breasted grosbeak will stay.) While some people like to have all their feeders at one station, I have mine spread out so shy birds have a chance. Those bird stations with all the clip on accessories for hanging feeders, suet, fruit, and trays are nice but wouldn't work for me here. And while bird feeders are nice scattered throughout the garden, I am planting more and more natural food sources. The service berry, winter berry (on order), and pagoda dogwood tree (also on order), will all offer berries. Wild roses should offer hips either this year or the next. Many flowers and grasses offer seed. I find it more enjoyable to watch chickadees hang from the sunflowers and finches pulling out coneflower seeds than to watch them at a feeder. I find that as my garden develops, I am seeing a larger variety of birds and the aggressive birds seem to be more in balance. I hope to attract some year-round cardinals and catbirds this year with more plantings. I did hear a bird meow last year but didn't catch a glimpse.

I would be interested in hearing about your bird feeding site or tips!


  1. Dear VF, You go to great efforts for your birds and I am sure they appreciate you for it!

  2. wow all those feeders are such hard work and your birds I am sure show their appreciation...I do not have feeders but may add some suet in the winter next year...I try to leave native plant berries and seeds for them...I have never had much luck or time for feeders...I know sounds awful...but the birds have houses, a pond (they love-it's a spa for them) and lots of natural food...my birds were absent as well...too high in the trees to see even with binoculars except the crows and I wasn't counting them...

  3. Wow, how many great feeders you have! I'd like to participate in Project Feeder Watch sometime.

  4. What a buffet! We had major snow storms so my bird count numbers were way down.

    I'm looking forward to the Red Wing Blackbirds returning too. They'll come to our feeders in early spring from the marsh behind our house.


  5. You are definitely passionate about your birds. I know it takes a lot of work to maintain all those feeders and isn't cheap to keep them full. It's wonderful what you do and I know that you reap the rewards by having all those wonderful visitors in your yard. Just curious.. if you had to pick a favorite backyard bird, what would it be? Mine changes constantly, but I've always been a fan of Goldfinches. It's our state bird here in WA, but I rarely get one at my feeders. When I lived in upstate NY, we had huge flocks of them!

  6. Thanks for commenting! Today I spied a golden crowned kinglet in my spruce for the very first time! And then a barred owl at the park! What a great bird day. It really doesn't seem like work to me having these feeders. Just like gardening isn't work! I love the red wing blackbirds and when they return, I know it is truly spring. But a favorite backyard bird? That's a tough one! I love the chickadees but really miss rose-breasted grosbeaks which I had in Maine. I enjoy the gold finches too, and this year seem to have more of them. I really enjoyed the yellow warblers that visited me last summer ... I just can't choose!


Thank you for joining me in my garden in the making!

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