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The HubPages Birdwatcher's Club: Feeding the Birds

Updated on November 14, 2012
Don't Worry, Your Place is Next!
Don't Worry, Your Place is Next! | Source

Squirrel-proofing? How?

One bit of advice that I can give you about squirrel-proofing your feeder is this: it won’t happen. There are many baffles available out there, but these animals are resourceful, determined, and very bright. In order to protect the feeder, it has to be done in all possible directions, and it isn’t just squirrels that you have to worry about. There are chipmunks, raccoons, and other animals that are hungry and want your seeds, nuts, suet, and fruit.

In order to do this as efficiently as possible, hanging or pole mounted feeders need to be five feet from the ground, and ten feet from any launch, which can be an eave, a deck, trees, roofs, window sills, ad nauseum.

Mockingbird on a bad hair day
Mockingbird on a bad hair day | Source

Let's Discuss Baffles

One can keep squirrels from climbing up a pole by using a sliding pole baffle that has a sleeve that fits around your pole. When the squirrel grabs that sleeve, it slides down the pole, and the squirrel will jump off to escape harm. There is a counterweight inside the pole that returns it to its original position. A cheaper option, is a dome baffle that fits on your pole right under the feeder. Now for hanging feeders, there is a similar option, which tilts when placed over the feeder under the weight of an animal, so they cannot climb down on it. If you have a hanging feeder with a bottom tray, remove that, as it will give your pesky squirrel something to grab onto.

Some people have been known to grease the poles on a pole feeder, but the grease needs to be replaced periodically, especially after a good rainstorm.

How to Divert Squirrels

You can also get dried ears of corn to try to keep the squirrels from your feeders, but I found that they’d rather have the seed. They can be mounted on a post or hung from a branch. Not only that, they will fall off the tree, and keep you, your family, and the cats entertained for hours upon end. It may be worth the effort spent just for the purposes of entertainment.

Great-Tailed Grackle
Great-Tailed Grackle | Source

There are also whirl-a-gig products that you can attach to a tree or post with an ear of corn on the ends. This device spins when the squirrels land on it, and cats and children find this amusing and it will keep them busy for hours, as well. It’s similar to a passive babysitter.

Some people will use humane traps for their individual pests, and relocate them elsewhere. If you do this, another animal will replace the one that you had eventually, and believe me, it won’t take long.

European Starling
European Starling | Source

Where to Get Bird Food

Last time, we discussed specific seed for birds, and today, I’d like to elaborate on that a bit. Grocery store commercial seed mixes end up being costly, as the birds will just throw off what doesn’t appeal to them. I like to visit Atwoods, local feed and seed stores, or Wild Birds Unlimited. Many of these locations will allow you to buy 10 bags, then get one free. Check what is available for quantity seed in your local area, and go from there. Keeping a 50 pound bag of seed in a galvanized metal trash can secured with a bungee cord will allow you to keep it outside, or in a shed or barn. Some people even make bins with a sheet metal inner liner to keep the pests out.

Purple Finch
Purple Finch | Source

Seed Mixes and Grit

One can even made a homemade general seed mix of 45% millet, 35% black oil sunflower seeds, and 20% safflower. For something a little less expensive, you could do 55% millet, 35% fine cracked corn, and 10% black oil sunflower seeds.

Keep in mind that the birds that you feed have no teeth, so they need a bit of help to crush their food. Either mix in or provide a small dish of grit next to your feeders. It really is critical to the health of a bird to have grit, 20 parts seed to one part grit.

What to Do in the Winter for Birds

Suet is good to have in the winter, as the fat content will help the birds keep their weight on. You can either buy it commercially, or get it from the butcher at the local supermarket. Some will sell it to you very cheaply or charge you nothing at all. Just ask for beef fat. You can also make your own suet mix, if you wish, by melting it down, and adding seeds, dried berries, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc. You can use cat food or tuna cans for a mold, and store it in the freezer.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal | Source
Blue Jays
Blue Jays | Source

How to Attract Hummingbirds

To attract hummingbirds, hanging nectar feeders are the method of choice. Place them outside after frost is over, usually early May through October. Hang them near flowering plants, orange or red in color, and once the hummers know that there are feeders in your yard, then move them to a shadier location with a better view for you. You could end up with several pairs, so more than one feeder will be necessary if there is more than one male. They will fight to protect their territory, so you could place another one across the yard. The best feeders are easy to clean and open up, and bee guards are a necessity, too. To deter ants from the feeder, coat the hanging wire with petroleum jelly. A hanger made of fishing line is also effective. There are a number of commercial feed mixes available, but don’t bother to get one with the red dye in it. If you wish to make your own mix instead, use one part white sugar with four parts of hot water. Stir until mixed, and keep the excess in the refrigerator. Don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners, and clean and change the mix once a week, or less, if it isn’t used up by the birds. You could have a pleasant surprise and meet orioles this way, too, but there are special feeders for the orioles, too.

Female Red-Winged Blackbirds
Female Red-Winged Blackbirds | Source
Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher | Source
Who Am I?
Who Am I? | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Diva, that's why I put it together. Hope you got a few things out of it.

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      Diva 2 years ago

      A minute saved is a minute eadnre, and this saved hours!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for your support, Athena!

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      Athena 2 years ago

      WOW! Very nice new format~~ Love it! I haven’t been on the site in a mtuine and I was quickly reminded that I need to be there daily. It was a nice opening to my day and your words always move me. Tea with me is my fav but I also like ro read reread tough love….helps me with my job and family. I especially like how the pictures and messages flash while your reading the piece!! Looks real good lady!! Hope to see you Tues or another time when you get back from your trip! Have a good time! Love Lois

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Sounds intense, Kedar. Good fortune!

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      Kedar 2 years ago

      Thanks! A lot of people do not rzeaile the cash that it takes, the time to prepare, do it, edit it down, add water marks and other things, etc. And to release 5 per week religiously? If I miss a day people know. Its why I snicker over a few things. Im burned our after 2 years of this and have another 100 vids to film of unique topics.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      anonymous, thank you SO much for sharing your love of birds with me. You have The Gift, and it would be good for you to care for nature as I do, since we both get so much joy from it. I am not sure what your wild bird was, but it was so kind of you to take the time to care. Do continue to love and care for all the birds, but be careful about imprinting, as not everyone cares as you do. Thanks for caring for our winged jewels. You might want to try finding a wild bird rehabilitator to volunteer with. Since you live in a citified area, there might be one or two there. A local vet might be able to tell you who they are or you could look for state and local wild bird rehabilitation offices on the internet. I received a lot of happiness doing that. Thanks again for contacting me and spread your wings!

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      I have been feeding wild birds in my garden since 1982. House sparrows, European Starlings, Northern Cardinals, Brown headed Cowbirds, American Crows, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, and Rock Doves or Pigeons are daily visitors. Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds, Black capped Chickadees, White throated Sparrows, and Evening Grosbeaks are also known to come but only rarely. I give seeds and bread and have a birdbath and a nest box and a feeder. Squirrels thrive on the property but can be a pest. My favorites are the Rock Doves or Pigeons. Over the years a flock comes to my yard. They recognize me. A few of them take food from my hand and perch on me. One of them was a female I named Cher Ami. She sadly passed away. Cher Ami was one of the tamest Pigeons and would perch on me. I love Pigeons. In the past I have kept as pets a Budgerigar, a Cockatiel, and at present I have aa Diamond Dove. The Budgerigar and Cockatiel were loveable pets. The Diamond Dove is semi tame. The deaths of my Budgerigar and Cockatiel were painful. I love them and I miss them and I wish to be with them in the afterlife. In the spring of 1981, a strange, unknown songbird entered my garden. It did not look like it was native. It was injured. It could have been someone's pet which escaped. It died overnight from its injury. In size and shape it looked like an American Robin and a Flycatcher. It was likely a predominant insect eater. I have only a vague memory of its colors. It was a beige color with a speck of yellow and a speck of red on its head. Flycatcher? Phoebe? Kingbird? I failed to get a picture at the time so I dont know what it was or where it came from and why it was injured. It looked like some of the Kingbirds from Central America. What could this bird be? It was about 10 inches long. The only way for me to identify it would be to look at photographs of every species of songbird. Of the many books about Birds, there is none I know of that has color photographs for each and every species of songbird. Peterson field guides only has artist paintings and Audubon field guides have photographs but dont have every species. My favorite birds are Parakeets and small Parrots, Pigeons and Doves, Cotingas, Manakins, Touracos, Broadbills, Finches, Grosbeaks, Canaries, Sparrows, Trogons and the Quetzal, Birds of Paradise, and Mynas. Heaven for me would be to have acres of gorgeous land with all these birds flying free. The American Goldfinch, the European Goldfinch, Pine Siskins, Nuthatches, Redpolls, the Pine Grosbeak, and Snow Bunting are all wonderful to have. Pine Grosbeaks are said to be one of the friendliest and tamest of wild birds and will allow close approach by humans. Handtaming wild birds interests me but its very time consuming and takes alot of patience. Here where I live is not an ideal place to handtame wildbirds because there are so many people and so many cats that the bird population is mostly wary, scared, mistrustful. An ideal place is where there are no people and no cats and no predators and no cars. The birds in my life are one of the very few sources of happiness and provide me with life, beauty, and goodness. I live in a bleak, overpopulated, polluted suburb/city. The birds are one of the very few good things in my life. At present my Diamond Dove is my pet which I keep in the house.

    • garage-remotes profile image

      Rob Reel 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      hahaha! I almost fell off my chair when I read the first line of this hub. I specifically clicked this post to see if it was possible to keep the squirrels out of my bird feed. Thanks for the tips on DIY feeds, I'll be sure to give them a whirl.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, unknown spy. I'm having so much fun seeking out these birds.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Its really fascinating to watch the photos, birds are beautiful creatures..and you write perfectly.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, grandmapearl. It will be interesting to see if Droll Yankee can really deliver what they say they can. I would love to see if the squirrel likes going for a ride.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi aviannovice! Great information in this article. I know what my next purchase is going to be! Loved the video--we'll see if it actually does keep squirrels off. So far, I have not had any luck with squirrel-proof feeders! I did install a peanut feeder just for them, though. It keeps them busy and away from the bird seed, at least for awhile! Voted Up and Useful.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Jackie. Do you have any pics of the albino squirrel. I have never seen one. Did it also have red eyes?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      bdegulio, hummers also like water from a fountain or a sprayer. They also like plenty of cover, like bushes if they feel that they need to hide, and tubular shaped red or orange flowers. If you are able to do that for them, your yard will be a big hit for them.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad you liked it, Jeannie. I hope those Great-Tailed Grackles go somewhere for water.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, marsei. Squirrels have minds of their own, that's for sure. Maybe you can try the corn on the squirrels and see if they like that, too, but I'm sure that after they have had the peanuts, they want nothing less.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Highland Terrier, not sure what you mean by cooking fat, can you clarify that? Do you mean lard, or maybe cooking oil? Glad that you're enjoying the series. I didn't release that it would end up being so lengthy.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I like the birds and squirrels. I think someone must have poisoned our squirrels, they just disappeared about three years ago and well they don't have any enemies that I know of, but one has shown up this year. We had an albino and I really miss him. Great pics as always.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Deb. Great hub with amazing photos. Was particularly interested in your info on how to attract Hummingbirds as that's been on my mind lately. Will give your suggestions a try. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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      Jeannie Dibble 4 years ago

      I've learned to enjoy any critter that visits the feeders..they all serve a nice purpose and enjoyment for watching nature right out the windows..As for the parking lot birds...it's my understanding they are in the parking lots for the bugs underneath the cars..bumpers and radiators...hopefully they get some juice ones...Thanks Deb for the great hub...always something to learn from you...

    • Marsei profile image

      Sue Pratt 4 years ago from New Orleans

      Wonderful ideas and the phtos of the birds are marvelous! I finally just gave up and bought a box that I keep full of peanuts for the squirrels. Now they leave the seed alone. (I'm broke but everyone else is happy.) Voted up and useful and beautiful, which the photos truly are.

      marsei

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great hub Again,

      You have a huge varity of birds in your area. We get Robins (not like yours) sparrows, golden finches, green finches, red poll, black caps , wrens, blue tits, great tits. I was going to say we don't get so many here but now that I started to name them I realise we get quite a few. Starlings, black birds again different from yours, many more.

      Any way here a tip for feeding them. Use oatmeal in cooking fat (not oil) as a nature programme on RTE Radio said that oil damages their feathers.

      Since we started using the oatmeal we can feed a lot more birds as it is so cheap.

      The Golden finches are a problem as they only feed on thistle seeds, siskens as well.

      Keep up the hubs find it fascinating.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for coming by Suhail. Yes, the rodents came to feed also, which is another reason why to pick up the shells left on the ground by birds. And yes, dogs rightfully protect their territory. My dog loves to see the birds, and they don't mind her.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I put bird feeders in my backyard once. It attracted 17 different species of birds, including a Goshawk, but the problem I had was that my house got infested with mice. They were all over the basement and first floor. If I put a bird feeder now, I will have another problem. I think my Kuvasz boy, who can be a good mouse killer, will scare the birds away too. He has scared all the squirrels off our premises. The two frequently visiting raccoons got treed up once in April and have never been seen again.

      This is a great hub for a person like me who enjoys bird feeders in public places like those at Grandfather Mountain Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary near Boone in North Carolina.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      I know. When i had my place in downtown Indy., I had FOUR bird baths...last year, it hit 117 in town for over 10 days (not consecutively)...and the poor birds just livedin those bird baths. I worry about those in town now...sometimes, it's just very very unfortunate. Off to the clinic...I am thoroughly enjoying your series. K

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I know, Kathy, the birds have been having a hard time here, where it has been around 119 degrees. I fill the birdbath constant, as it just dries up so fast. I don't know what the in-town parking lot birds do.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi aviannovice...the kinds of birds that I recognized and knew / know are; Barn Swallows, Martins, Cardinals, Meadowlarks, the greyish Doves, Scissor tailed (don't know the proper name) (with long, long tails that scissor open/closed), sparrows, woodpeckers...and more whose identity I never knew....so many birds. Right now, Al is there tending the little farm and he keeps all kinds of seeds/nuts around as well as providing water in multiple places because it is so horribly dry and hot...He sent me a picture with TEN birds hovering around and/or in the bird bath.. I fear for them. There are more kinds, I know; but I don't have the names. I have seen numerous Swallows, few Orioles, many Martins, Meadowlarks, Doves; more than the others I'vementioned. There is a farm supply in Independence, Ks which also provides all kinds of seeds/nuts and premixed formula for wild birds...we keep lots of this available too Kathy

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Lucky Cats! When I was back in ME, the woodpeckers, jays and nuthatches screamed for suet. What kinds of birds did you have in Kansas?

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      hi Aviannovice. Helpful Hub! First, keeping squirrels away from bird feed...you are right, NOT going to happen. These little nuteaters can get to anything that has seeds/nuts in it...no matter where or how. We just gave in and built a separate squirrel feeder; it's about 1' x 2' and a peaked roof, w/"chicken" wire sides and stands on a pole to keep 'other' critters out. works well as it does keep the squirrels occupied. At the songbird clinic where I volunteer, we order from a source the ingredients for the 'gruel' like substance we feed the nudies/nestlings/fledglings..then, it's off to fresh fruit, larger seed mixes (such as you've listed)...there is a local Feed & Grain store here and they carry lots of seeds/nuts in bulk for mixing.

      For some weird reason; we bought suet for our bird friends in SE Kansas and, mostly; they did not seem interested. We hung it in late fall and replaced throughout winter but, mostly, it decayed and fell apart. We throw out seeds and the birds go nuts over them!

      These are beautiful photos of the birds; I'll try to find some we've taken over the years to share w/you at some point. It's off to do my work w/the clinic today..so

      Great and informative hub, aviannovice...just love the suggestions and help and what I've learned by reading your articles. UP useful Awesome Beautiful and Interesting.

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