Bringing birds into your patio or garden area can be incredibly rewarding. You can help sustain life for birds, you can see a wide variety of different species, and you can learn more about the natural world. The task of hanging a bird feeder itself is not very difficult, but all of the surrounding considerations are quite important to look at prior to installing your feeders. This article explains both the mechanics of how to hang a bird feeder, and also covers all the other important aspects that go into creating a safe, reliable, healthy food source for birds.
We look at best practices for bird feeding, the various types of bird feeders, how to mount a feeder, and squirrel proofing.
Bird Feeding Best Practices
Before installing your bird feeder, you should at least consider a few important best practices to ensure that the birds you attract will leave in a healthier state than when they arrived.
In general, it’s a good idea to separate small seed sizes, for small birds, from larger seed sizes. This way, there’s no direct competition between small birds and large birds.
Providing a variety of foods, in different sizes and different locations will make your yard and attractive area for migratory birds. For more information on seed selection and configuration, see the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Proximity to Shelter
It’s a good idea to keep your bird feeder near an evergreen tree or other shelters so that the birds feeding have immediate access to protection if needed.
Distance from Cats
Ensure that the location you place your feeders is nowhere near spots that may be hiding places for cats.
Ease of Filling
Locate your bird feeders in a place that can be accessed even in winter. If birds begin to rely on your food source to get them through hard times, it’s your responsibility to keep the food stocked, even in winter.
Clean off your bird feeders after snow and ice storms, to ensure that food is clearly visible and accessible to your local bird population.
Cleaning and Maintenance
One of the most important tasks when maintaining a bird feeder is to regularly clean the feeder. Every month, empty out any lingering seed and give a good cleaning to the interior of your bird feeder. Use a scrub brush and hot water to get rid of any contaminants.
Allow the feeder to dry completely before refilling.
You also want to be sure to regularly clean the area around your feeder. Use a lawnmower or leaf vac such as the Black and Decker BV6000 to pull up any seeds that have spilled on the ground, and seed hulls.
If you are placing bird feeders within 10′ or so of any window in your home, you should install some sort of signaling device to protect against collisions.
One of the easiest ways to do so is to use window alert decals visible to birds. For more information, see below.
Keep Seed Bags Indoors
Don’t leave your seed bags outside when refilling your bird food. Raccoons, squirrels, bears, and the like will get at the seed bags, so store them inside.
If your feeders are attracting dangerous animals that won’t be deterred, such as raccoons, bears, and the like, it may be time to stop putting out the bird food for a while, until these pests go elsewhere.
Types of Bird Feeders
In this section, we look at the most common types of bird feeders out there, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Suspended Platform Feeders
Suspended platform feeders are a great way to attract a wide variety of birds, though there are a few conditions you should be aware of. The seeds in a platform feeder are open to the elements, rain, and snow, and also run into issues where bird droppings can get into the seed area.
Obviously, this is not a good occurrence, and if you use platform feeders, you should be sure to regularly clean and replace the seeds every few days. This will keep disease at bay.
The main advantage of hopper feeders is that they tend to keep food clean and sheltered. These feeders dispense food by gravity, and usually, un-dispensed food is protected from exposure. This ensures that the birds that feed at a hopper feeder are getting uncontaminated food… that is, if the squirrels don’t get it first!
Squirrels tend to like hopper feeders, and they excel at breaking into the feeders. To combat squirrel intrusion, see below.
Tube feeders are long vertical tubes, generally with a small platform at the bottom. These feeders keep the vast majority of the food sheltered, but have spaces where feed is exposed. This design is pretty good at keeping food clean and healthy, and is not particularly prone to squirrel issues.
If you use a tube feeder, be sure to clean out the seeds from the bottom, as you don’t want the very old seed to be mixed in with the fresh seed at the bottom of the feeder.
How to Hang a Bird Feeder
Hanging a bird feeder is generally pretty simple, though much depends on what you want to hang your feeder from! Common objects to hang bird feeders from are tree branches, windows, and deck/rod mounts.
Hang Bird Feeder on Tree Branch
Branches of large trees are an ideal place to hang bird feeders from. The proximity to shelter is quite appealing to birds, and the look of a stylish modern bird feeder suspended from a tree can really be a great yard accent! To suspend a bird feeder from a tree branch, you’ll need to do the following:
1. Create an Attachment Point on the Tree Branch
You can create an attachment point on a tree branch in a few different ways. The easiest way is to get a short bungee cord and wrap it around the tree, securing the hooked ends in the location you want to suspend from.
Alternately, you can tie a rope or wrap a length of chain around the tree to create an attachment point.
2. Connect the Bird Feeder to the Attachment Point
Depending on the design of your bird feeder, there will likely be a section of rope, a metal suspension hook, or other mechanism to suspend your feeder. Attach the suspension device to your attachment point on the tree, and adjust the height as necessary so that it’s far enough off the ground that cats won’t be able to get to it, but also easy enough to refill.
3. Attach a Squirrel Baffle (If Necessary)
Depending on the design of your bird feeder, you will probably want to get a squirrel baffle (see here for our favorite squirrel baffles). These baffles create an impediment to squirrels getting access to your bird feeder and draining it of all its food.
For more information on squirrel baffles, see below.
Window Mount Bird Feeder
If you want to mount your bird feeder on a window, there are a few different ways to do it. The first way is to simply buy a window bird feeder designed with a suction mount system.
The second is to pick up some suction cup hooks designed for outdoor use and attach a suspended bird feeder from the suction hook. These hooks will make most any suspended bird feeder into a window mount feeder.
Just keep in mind the weight of the feeder, and remember that the suction can fail, and your feeder can fall to the ground and potentially break.
Window mount bird feeders have some huge pluses, and some negatives as well. They are ideal because you can see birds right outside your house through the glass. You can watch them feed all day, which is really cool.
However, you must remember that birds don’t understand what windows are, and will try to fly into them.
You should install some bird window alert decals or other window identification devices on your windows in conjunction with the window bird feeder. These will help mitigate the potential of birds harming themselves by flying into your windows.
If your window feeder is fairly low to the ground, you also need to consider spaces where neighborhood cats may lay in wait for a quick and easy meal. Remove any potential hiding places.
Deck or Yard Bird Feeder Hangers
Hanging a bird feeder in the yard from a deck, or from other fixed constructions is generally pretty easy. Use a deck hangar such as the Gray Bunny Deck Hook shown here, to attach a hook to your deck, railing, or baluster. These areas are usually easy to access to refill your feeder, and generally close to seating, so the birds will be visible from your deck or patio space.
Keep any low or ground-based bird feeders away from areas where cats can hide and stalk.
Cats kill enormous amounts of birds each year! Our guess is that if you’re going through the trouble of installing a bird feeder, you’re not doing so to draw prey for the cats in your neighborhood!
Squirrel Proofing your Bird Feeder
It’s a little-known fact that squirrels grow up watching heist movies like Oceans 11, Mission Impossible, and The Sting in order to learn the most effective way of breaking into places they shouldn’t go.
Ok, maybe not. But still, squirrels are notorious for getting into bird feeders and devouring all of the seed meant for our avian friends. It is an endless frustration.
There are no sure-fire ways to stop the most intrepid squirrels, but the best solution we have come across to stop those little b@&+@rds is the squirrel baffle.
Squirrel baffles, such as the Woodlink NABAF18 Audubon Wrap Around Squirrel Baffle shown here, create a barrier between the ground and the feeder that makes it very difficult for squirrels not named Clooney or Cruise to get to the goods.
The Woodlink NABAF baffle can be used either for suspended, hanging bird feeders or pole-based feeders. If you choose a different brand, be sure to confirm it will work under both circumstances.
You now should have pretty much all the information you need to hang a bird feeder, or several bird feeders, in the ideal spaces in your yard. If you’re still looking for ideas for which feeder(s) to get, be sure to check out our list of the best modern bird feeders around!