Setting up your bird feeders
Birds are vulnerable to predators when they feed so feeder placement is very important. Somewhere quiet is usually a good place to start. You don’t see many birds in bustling city centres for a reason so try and place your feeders away from busy roads or other noisy areas. Open areas with an all round view away from cat ambush sites like fences or trees will make birds feel safe as they can see incoming predators. Shelter also needs to be provided for the perfect food court so try to put it in an area where it doesn’t get too windy or too sunny.
Finally, your visitors will need a good lookout point a couple of metres away from the feeder from where they can survey the area before they go in to feed. A small bush usually does the trick but try to make it a spiky one so that any local cats will get a nasty shock if they try to hide in it! Put your feeders where you can see them too or you won’t have any of the benefits of being able to watch the wonderful creatures they attract.
Squirrels love bird food and will do anything to get their paws on it. These furry critters are incredibly agile and will be able to get to the feeder almost wherever you try to hide it. Many feeders are now made to be squirrel proof with domes of plastic on top so that the invader can’t get a grip or doors which close when something heavier than a bird lands on them.
If you don’t want to splash out on expensive feeders, you can make your own. An old plastic bottle cut into a cone shape and put on top of the feeder stopping aerial attacks or on the pole holding the feeder to stop attacks from below. Another good way to deter squirrels is to dust your bird food with chilli powder, which squirrels hate but which won’t bother the birds, or provide them with their own source of food away from where the birds eat.
Hygiene and Cleaning
Your food court will provide excellent nourishment for birds but it’s no good if it’s also a source of disease so keeping it clean is essential. In the summer bacteria can accumulate very quickly so try not to put out too much food as it will accumulate and go off. Clear away any mouldy or stale food or droppings and make sure to clean your bird feeders with a mild disinfectant every week or so.
Simple feeder designs are usually easier to clean so don’t be mesmerised by ones which look overly fancy!
Never clean your feeders in your kitchen and always wash your hands thoroughly before and after cleaning as some bird diseases can be transmitted to humans. Rinse out water containers every day and dry them out before filling them with fresh water. If you spread food on the floor or a lot of waste falls underneath the feeder, try to clear it up on a daily basis or you may attract unwanted vermin. Using ground feeding trays will make cleaning easier. Try to move the table around every once in a while so that droppings don’t accumulate underneath. Bird feeders, in particular wooden ones, will also need checking over once a year to make sure there is no damage which will make them dangerous to birds. Screws or splinters may be sticking out and sometimes new feeders might need to be put out in their place.