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The Backyard Birder
 
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Birding Facts
Choosing a Bird Feeder
Locating your  Feeder
Cleaning your feeder
Water
Types of Bird Seed
Controlling Squirrels

 

Did you know?
A metal birdhouse can get very hot and quickly turn into a deathtrap for eggs and newly-hatched birds.

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Choosing a Bird Feeder

Bird Feeders
Platform Feeder
Tubular Feeder
Hopper Feeder
Window Feeder
Suet Feeder
Nectar Feeder

There are a bewildering variety of birdfeeders on the market from simple plastic tubes to elaborate birdhouses fit only for the royalty of the feathered kingdom. A visit to a good local garden center will give you an idea of what's available and what will best fit your budget. Remember that some of the cheaper alternatives may be just as effective as the really elaborate and expensive models. As far as we know, birds aren't great connoisseurs of architecture. The important thing is that your feeder works properly and allows your featured friends access to your seeds.

You may even want to try your hand at building your own feeder or birdhouse. There are all types of plans available and, of course, you can design your own from scratch. If you plan on building something more elaborate than a simple plastic feeding tube, building materials become important. Wood is usually the best choice. It's easy to work with and maintain. More importantly, though, it doesn't radiate heat as much as metal and some plastics. This is an important consideration for two reasons. First, some fat-saturated bird foods like suet cakes will turn rancid very quickly if exposed to heat. Secondly, if you are building a birdhouse for nesting birds as part of your feeder, building from wood will minimize the heat build-up within the birdhouse. In even moderate sunshine, a metal birdhouse can quickly turn into a deathtrap for eggs and newly-hatched birds.

The choice of feeder depends to a great extent on the kind of food that you're going to be using. Suet cakes, for instance, which are blocks of fat and seed, can't flow through tubes and are best secured behind wire mesh. Though effective, suet blocks require regular cleaning and maintenance and this can deter some bird enthusiasts.

A better choice for many homeowners is loose seed. Birdseed comes in many varieties from mixed preparations of different seeds to specific seeds, like thistle, chosen to attract a particular species of bird. In general, though, many birding authorities recommend a seed mix which includes black oil sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are a very good "all-round" birdseed due to its high nutritional and fat content. Unfortunately, sunflower seeds are also preferred by squirrels who will raid your feeder looking for sunflower seeds. (See Controlling Squirrels) A great advantage of loose birdseed is that it flows easily and is ideal, therefore, for low-maintenance tubes and feeders. For more information on various types of seed and the preferences of specific types of birds, please visit Types of Seeds.

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Types of Bird Feeders:

There are several types of birdfeeders available to feed your birds. Feeders can be as simple as a tray with seed in it, or very fancy with seating for a dozen or more. Your choice of feeders plays almost as big a role as your choice of food when it comes to what birds you'll attract. 

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Platform Feeder 

The most basic form of feeders is a platform, usually a simple tray with raised edges fashioned from plywood. Try a platform not more than one foot off the ground. Sweep with a broom. Check the seed frequently for mold. The best models of platform feeders have removable screened trays that allow moisture to pass through. Platform feeders can be great landscaping additions, and the birds seem to enjoy landing on a pile of seed. 

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Tubular Feeder 

Many backyard bird watchers rely on tube feeders. Tubular feeders usually consist of a plastic tube, perhaps enclosed in a wire cage. A series of portals allows the seed to come out, and there are perches where the birds can land. Tubular feeders are easy to fill, they permit the birds to see the seeds easily and there is minimal spillage. When buying a tube feeder consider what seeds it can hold, how many birds can feed at once and if there is a good way to hang it or mount it on a post. 

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Hopper Feeder 

A hopper feeder, often styled like a little house, provides a storage system for seeds that automatically replenishes until the hopper is empty. A large amount of seed can be used, so the feeder doesn't need to be refilled so often. Plus the seed is protected from the elements until it is ready to be eaten. They also allow substantial spillage, which is a plus for ground feeders. 

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Window Feeder 

A window feeder is just that; one that fastens to the outside of your windowpane and allows you to bring birds up close. If the location allows, they can be built out of wood. If not, they can be found at most specialty or gardening stores. 

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Suet Feeder 

Suet is an important part of any feeding program. It attracts a wide variety of birds all year. The simplest way to serve it is in plastic-coated wire cages that flip open on one end, and also are the right size for commercially prepared suet cakes. Hang them from a tree branch or beneath a seed feeder. Some suets should only be used as a winter food, because they can quickly turn rancid in warm weather. 

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Nectar Feeder 

Some birds take a little extra effort to attract. There are more specialized feeders available to attract Humming Birds and Orioles, for example. These birds drink a sugar water mixture from a liquid feeder. Nectar feeders come in two types: vacuum feeders, an inverted bottle that empties into a lower reservoir with feeding holes; and saucer feeders, a container with a cover that has holes thorough out which the hummingbird can drink the liquid. Feeders for orioles essentially are the same design but larger, with longer perches.

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