Keeping your feeders clean will help prevent the spread of avian diseases. Keep the following tips in mind when adding food or cleaning your feeders.
1. Check the seeds
When refilling hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc., make sure any remaining seed is free of mold or mildew. The seed should also be loose in the container, not compacted, so it can flow easily to the feeding areas.
2. Don't feed too much
Remove old seed or other feed from platform feeders on a regular basis. Try to limit platform feeders to a one or two day supply.
When feeding on the ground, do not disperse more than is consumed in a day or two. Experience will teach you how much to use.
3. Keep feeders clean
If mold or mildew becomes apparent, or the feeders are becoming dirty or soiled, they should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before refilling. Feeders can be soaked in a water/bleach solution (one part bleach to 9 parts water) and then scrubbed well. Dry the feeders well before refilling. You can also use a soap and water mix but be sure to rinse completely.
If you see diseased birds coming to your feeders on a regular basis, you may wish to remove your feeders for couple of weeks to reduce the spread of disease.
4. Wash after feeding
It is good practice to wash your hands after putting out seed and cleaning feeders.
5. Clean under feeders
Large piles of dropped seeds and hulls may attract rodents or begin to germinate. To prevent problems, rake the area below fixed feeders on a regul...
There is a wide selection of feeder types to consider in establishing your first feeding station. Different types of feeders require varying levels of care and attract different species. Consider several different types of feeders to maximize the variety of birds you attract.
When purchasing a new feeder, start by selecting one that is easy to fill and easy to clean. Weather resistant cedar or redwood is a good choice for wooden feeders but other types of wood are acceptable. Avoid chemically treated lumber. The types of birds that show up at your feeder will also vary by your location and the time of year.
Important: If your feeder will be located near trees or you have seen squirrels in your area be prepared to deal with them at some point. They can be extremely determined and can consume a large amount of your feed. We cover dealing with squirrels in another section but it is a good idea to keep them in mind when planning your feeding station or backyard environment.
The list below provides a quick reference to the basic feeder types. Select from the menu on the left for more detailed information.
Ground feeding is the easiest and quickest way to get started. Spreading seed, cracked corn, bread crumbs, raisins and peanuts can attract a variety of species. The area should be dry and the ground feeding area rotated every several days unless it can be washed down. It is best not to add additional feed below hanging feeders. Do not put out more than one day supply of food. (Time and experience will help you establish the correct amount.)
Attracted Species: Sparrows, doves, quail, towhees, flickers, thrashers, juncos, cardinals
Platform feeders are easy to maintain and attract a wide variety of species. Long, narrow platforms encourage birds to feed from the edge, limiting contamination of the station. A wide variety of seed, nuts, fruit, and egg shells can be used on a platform feeder. Keep the platform clean and put out only a 1 or 2 day supply of food at a time. Some platform feeders have a second, often wire mesh platform below for catching hulls and uneaten seed.
Attracted Species: Sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blackbirds, wrens, cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, tanagers, orioles, cardinals
Hopper feeders are a popular design. They are usually easy to fill and easy to clean. They also do well in attracting a variety of species. The one shown below is a typical design but far from the only one.
Watch for mold growing in feed that has been in a hopper feeder for an extended period. Clean hopper feeders on a regular basis.
Hopper feeders can be difficult to protect from squirrel attacks from above. If your feeder will be within 8 feet of a tree or overhanging branch you may wish to consider a squirrel-proof design.
Selecting the right feeder is not difficult but there are several things to consider.
If you are just starting out you may wish to build your own platform feeder. This can be as simple as a flat piece of wood mounted on a pole. It can be mounted close to the ground or several feet up. A long and narrow platform is best. It is inexpensive to build and easy to use. Just spread your sunflower seed on the platform and you're done.
Platform feeders are attractive to a variety of species and easily accommodate offering a variety of food types, including seed, fruit and nuts. The disadvantage to a platform feeder is the food supply has to be replenished more often than other designs. They also invite squirrels and perhaps some undesirable bird species. They do provide the inexperienced with the opportunity to learn which birds are in their area and which birds they wish to attract, before purchasing a commercially manufactured feeder. If you do not wish to build your own feeder, inexpensive feeders are available for under $20.00.
Select from the menu on the left for information on the major feeder styles and their features.
Match feeder, feed and species
Some feeders are designed for a particular kind of seed. One design might be for sunflower or mixed seed while another is for feeding Nyjer® (thistle), a popular seed for attracting finches. Knowing what kind of birds you wish to attract can help you select the proper feeder and feed type.
Fortunately, a wide variety of species enjoy sunflower seed and there is a variety of both tube and hopper feeders that accommodate sunflower seed.
Prepare for squirrels
If you know squirrels are in your area, be prepared to put up with them or plan to add a baffle or purchase a feeder with a squirrel-proof metal cage around it or another squirrel-proof design. Squirrels can be quite a challenge so if they are in your area. You may wish to read the Squirrel section before selecting your feeder.
Winter is a favorite time to feed birds. The baffle on top provides some protection for this white-breasted nuthatch and helps keep the feeder open for business. Note suet feeders on the tree.
The location of your feeder may also affect the types of birds you attract. Sparrows prefer to feed low to the ground while species such as goldfinches prefer an elevated feeder. If you are having few visitors to your feeder, give it a little time; the birds will find it. If you want to accelerate the process mount your feeder on a temporary basis closer to the birds' natural cover or food supply. After the feeder has been discovered it can be moved it to a better viewing location.
Window collisions are a major problem for birds. Millions of birds are killed each year after colliding with tall buildings, especially during migration.
Home window collisions are also a problem. To minimize window collisions, some experts recommend the following feeder locations.