One of the easiest things a homeowner can to do to brighten up a backyard is to buy a bird feeder. It’s also one of the hardest.
Types of bird feeders
There are almost as many kinds of feeders as there are birds.
Some take advantage of particular bird habits to draw what you want while discouraging pests. For instance, some covered suet feeders force a bird to hang upside down to eat; Woodpeckers have no problem with that, but starlings do. There are feeders that let small birds such as chickadees get seed but will snap shut when something heavier ─ such as squirrels or a jay ─ lands on it.
It’s easiest to start with a simple hanging feeder that allows easy access ─ usually on two sides ─ for any bird. This is how you and your family can learn about what hungry birds are in your area during the winter, when the usual insect food isn’t around.
Where to put a bird feeder
Now you have your feeder; where do you put it? Do you want to be able to watch the visiting birds from a window or a deck? Either way you’ll need a pole and a baffle.
Let’s say you want to be able to see the birds from a window. You will need someone to stand outside with your feeder pole ─ usually made from rust-resistant iron and having anywhere from one to four arms depending on how many feeders you want to hang ─ so that you can place it.
A baffle looks like a wok lid. They come in many sizes and must be attached to the feeder pole to keep critters from climbing up to the seed. Once you know where the pole is going, take it apart and attach the baffle (many come with adjustable center pieces on which you place the baffle so it is loose enough to move when a squirrel grabs it). Make sure the baffle is high enough off the ground so that a critter can’t use it as a stepladder. Then you can hammer the pole into the ground or dig a hole and backfill. Keep in mind you should also keep the pole far enough away from trees or shrubs so that squirrels can’t climb up and jump into the feeder.
Too much work? Hang your feeder from a strong tree limb. But buy a feeder surrounded by anti-squirrel caging or suspend it from the branch using thin, steel wire. Make sure to hang it high enough off the ground but not so high you can’t refill it. A baffle on top of the feeder will deter pests, too.
As time goes by you will see what works, what doesn’t and make appropriate changes. But in the meantime, be prepared to be amazed by what you will see.