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Choosing A Bird Feeder

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How to choose a bird feeder?

The simplest way to attract birds is to place a bird feeder in your backyard. There are many different types of feeders available and each has advantages and disadvantages. Most birdfeeders are made to hold seeds, but there are others that are specially designed for certain foods such as sugar solution, suet, or peanuts. Which feeders you should choose depends upon the kinds of birds you want to attract to your home.  

Bird Feeders come into in a variety of models and sizes, so it is important to know what you need. Quality is important too as the ideal bird feeder must be sturdy enough to withstand all kinds of weather, tight enough to keep seeds dry, large enough to avoid constant refilling, and easy to clean. Plastic or metal feeders usually beat wooden ones in meeting all these requirements, but with proper care and maintenance, aesthetically pleasing wooden model bird feeders can last for a very long time.  

The number of bird feeders you own, the type, and what feed they offer will both attract and dissuade certain types of bird species. It is best to have a variety of feeders, in order to attract the greatest numbers of birds.  

Types of Feeders  

Tray or Platform Bird Feeder:  

Tray or platform feeders generally have a flat surface, with four short walls on each side, onto which bird food is spread. They attract most species of wild birds, and can utilize a variety of feed. However, they offer no protection against squirrels, chipmunks, rain, or snow, as there are no sides to the feeder, although some models have a roof to provide some protection from the weather. Plus, the seed can quickly become soiled by droppings because birds stand right on top of it. However, platform feeders do allow for easy viewing of seed level, and are generally larger, to accommodate more birds at a time. Tray feeders placed near or on the ground are most likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, turkeys and sparrows. Tray feeders also work well mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps, and can also be suspended from trees, making them versatile in placement. Experimenting with height of your feeder will help you find the best place to accommodate the most birds. It is important that your tray feeder has plenty of drainage holes to keep the seed fresh as long as possible.  

Hopper or House Bird Feeder:  

Hopper style bird feeders are generally platform feeders that have a central walled and roofed area, forming an enclosed "hopper," that holds the seed. This type of feeder protects seeds fairly well against the weather, as it is almost completely enclosed, and does a better job of keeping seed cleaner, but is still fairly accessible to squirrels.  It also usually offers the surrounding perching area, found in the platform feeders. Hopper feeders are attractive to most feeder birds including finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice. Also, most hoppers hold a large quantity of seed, and have translucent sidewalls, so you can monitor the level of the seed easily. However, as few are weatherproof, the food may get wet and moldy if it sits for a few days, so for the health of the birds, the quality of the seed so should be closely monitored. Hopper feeders offer the same versatility as platform feeders, as they can be mounted on a pole, suspended from a tree or mounted on a deck. Some feeders feature multiple hoppers equipped to feed and attract several types of birds will feed a large volume at once.

Caged Bird Feeders:

These tend to look like more traditional tube feeders but come with a cage that has meshing large enough that small birds can enter through it and land on the perches of the feeder. These Caged Bird Feeders can  be effective in  keeping large birds from dominating a feeder as well as keeping squirrels out of the feeder. 

Window Bird Feeder:  

Window feeders are usually small platform feeders made of clear plastic and having suction-cups to attach to a window.  This type of feeder attracts finches, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice, as it is generally too small for larger birds. A window feeder's greatest draw is that they allow for close-up views of the birds when they come to feed. However, since they are simple platform feeders, birds will be forced to feed while standing on the seeds inside the feeder, so the food risks becoming soiled faster. Frequent changing of seed is needed with this type of feeder.  

Tube Bird Feeder:  

Tube feeders are hollow cylinder, usually of clear plastic, with multiple feeding openings and perches.  These feeders keep seed fairly clean and dry, as they are enclosed units, and if they have metal feeding ports, they are somewhat squirrel resistant. The type of birds attracted by tube feeders depend on the size of the perches. Shorter perches accommodate small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches, but exclude larger birds such as grackles, cardinals and jays. Styles with perches above the feeding openings are designed for seed-eating birds that like to feed hanging upside down, such as goldfinches, but detract from other birds. With this type of feeder, you should either know what types of birds frequent your yard, or employ a variety of feeders. Triple tube feeders, Feeders with three cylinders with perches at several feeding ports are perhaps the most popular feeder style. Triple tubes are used by small birds. 

If you are just going to be able to install one feeder, it should be a tube feeder and one with a big tray at the bottom to catch seeds. This will create a good versatile all-purpose feeder and attract the largest variety of birds. Place the feeder where you can see it to enjoy your visitors and near natural cover and shelter such as trees and shrubs, preferably  in a quiet area that has few if any disturbances.

Thistle Bird Feeder:  

Thistle feeders are specialty type of tube feeder that is designed with extra-small openings to dispense only tiny thistle seeds.  These tubes do not have to be plastic, many that are effective are stainless steel mesh.  Thistle is also known as nyjer or niger seed. This type of feeder attracts a variety of small songbirds, especially finches and redpolls. Thistle "socks," fine-mesh bags, to which birds cling to extract the seeds, are another option for distributing only thistle.  

Suet Feeder:  

Suet and seedcake bird feeders are generally wire-mesh cages, although a few are mesh bags, which hold suet cakes or suet mixture. This type of feeder can be suspended, nailed or tied to a tree trunk, or is sometimes mounted on the sides of a hopper feeder. Softer suet can also be smeared into knotholes or on pinecones. Alone, suet cages are smaller feeders, accommodating only one bird at a time. Suet feeders attract a variety of woodpeckers and nuthatches, as well as chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. Starlings are known for their violent behavior and messy feeding habits, however, suet cages that are open only at the bottom often referred to as an upside down suet feeder are starling-proof, because they force birds to hang upside down while feeding, something starlings find extremely difficult.  

Hummingbird Feeder:  

Hummingbird feeders come in many shapes and sizes from glass bulbs and saucers to tall plastic cylinders, but they all are designed to contain an artificial nectar or sugar solution for hummingbirds. The bottle or tube types of hummingbird feeder are usually constructed of glass or plastic, and have red plastic flowers and bee-guards on the feeding ports in order to attract the hummingbirds and keep out the bees and other insects.  Saucer types, on the other hand, are usually plastic, and have feeding ports in the top, making them bee-and wasp-proof.  The important things to keep in mind when looking for a hummingbird feeder, is they need to be easy to take apart and clean, because it should be washed frequently. Since the nectar solution contains so much sugar and spoils rapidly, it needs to be changed and cleaned every 3-5 days depending on the weather. Saucer feeders are better than bottle feeders in direct sunlight, as bottle feeders tend to leak in the sun. Air trapped in the top of the bottle expands as it warms and pushes the nectar out.  

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders:

It’s difficult to feed the birds without feeding the squirrels. Squirrels are pretty formidable athletes.They can climb any post or pole that hasn’t been blocked with a baffle, run along and up and down ropes wires and chains, jump vertically 5’ in the air and leap horizontally at least 10’.  

Squirrel proof bird feeders, are more appropriately called “Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeders”. It’s almost impossible to find a feeder that offers 100% protection from squirrels, gray or red, eating from the feeder. You can come close and most birdwatchers are pleased with “close”. Nevertheless, we call them "squirrel proof" and all our squirrel proof feeders provide excellent protection from squirrel damage. You can get hours of entertainment out of watching the squirrels attempt to master squirrel proof feeders.  You can also choose to try to divert the squirrels away from the bird feeders to feeders of their own.

Squirrel Feeders:  

If you are one of the rare few who enjoy the company of squirrels, or simply need a diversion from your bird feeders, there are a variety of feeders designed specifically for squirrels. These squirrel feeders often use bird seed or ears of corn, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many of these feeders feature the playful side of the feeder owner, as they either employ the squirrel's acrobatic ability, or place him in a unique position for photo opportunity, such as sitting at a picnic table. You can spend hours on end watching the squirrels play, ponder, and negotiate these specialty feeders.

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