By Erik J. Martin | CTW Features
Wish you owned a pet but lack the space and schedule to care for one? Enjoy looking out your window and soaking in the grand visuals that Mother Nature has to offer? You might just be a great candidate for a birdfeeder.
“Feeding birds around your yard is an extremely enjoyable hobby that’s perfect for young families wanting to learn more about the local birds as well as retired folks who enjoy welcoming nature into their yard,” says Vic MacBournie, a wildlife and gardening expert with FernsFeathers.ca. “It’s also a great educational experience for young children and a way to add to your bird list if you are a birdwatcher. For gardeners, attracting birds to the yard can be a way to control pests and help keep your garden in balance, too.”
Dr. Charles van Rees, a professional naturalist and wildlife scientist at the University of Georgia, agrees.
“Inviting birds to your yard can also improve your mental health. Studies show that listening to birdsongs boosts concentration and relieves stress,” he notes.
The most important requirements for using and enjoying a birdfeeder include having a window, balcony, or other viewpoint to watch feeding birds from, having the money and time to maintain the birdfeeder properly, and being located in an area with wild birds.
“You don’t necessarily need to live in the countryside – many seed-eating bird species are also abundant in urban areas,” van Rees notes. “Nor do you need a backyard. So long as you respect their space and privacy, birds can get used to feeding right in front of you, regardless of where you place the feeder.”
If you don’t particularly care which birds you attract, choosing a hanging platform feeder with a large open tray upon which you can lay feed could be the ideal product. Platform feeders enable you to put out any kind of food – from orange slices and peanuts to piles of birdseed.
“By contrast, hanging enclosed hopper feeders with different designs can help you restrict access to birds of certain weights or beak sizes, depending on the feeder’s mechanism,” adds van Rees.
Birdfeeders are ideally suspended high from the ground, such as from a pole or off the eaves of your home or a porch overhang. Problem is, if you hang a feeder too close to your home’s structure, undesirable critters can attempt to steal the food.
That’s why MacBournie particularly likes “squirrel-buster” style birdfeeders that can be hung virtually anywhere.
“These feeders have systems that make it extremely difficult for squirrels to get at the feed. Some spin the animals right off them, while others have openings that close up with the squirrel’s weight. Some of these feeders can also be set up to keep larger, heavier birds off the feeder,” he says.
When deciding on the correct type of feeder for your needs, Scott Keller, creator of Bird Watching HQ in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, recommends answering several questions.
“Ask yourself: What kinds of birds am I hoping to attract? Is the feeder easy to fill? Will the birds be easily visible? Is it easy to clean? Are the feeder materials sturdy? Will the food be kept dry? And will the birds like the feeder?” he asks.
Regardless of what type or model of feeder you select, opt for a higher-quality “no-mess” feed, which often consists of a sunflower mix type of seed.
“It’s a more expensive seed because the sunflower shells are removed, which means you are not left with a mess around the feeder. The seed to avoid is the inexpensive type sold in most discount stores. Too much filler is used in this seed mix, and most of it ends up on the ground where it can attract mice and rats as well as squirrels and other unwanted animals,” explains MacBournie.
Expect to pay from $2 and up per pound for quality feed and $20 and up for a birdfeeder, with better models charging $75 or more.