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You’re in good company if you have a bird feeder in your yard. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, about 59 million people share your passion. It’s an excellent way to connect with nature, which many of us sorely needed during the pandemic. Research has shown many health benefits for people who take up this hobby.
Perhaps you’re just getting started. You’ve bought your supplies, and now you’re wondering where the best place to put a bird feeder is. You obviously want to enjoy seeing your avian visitors. However, you probably don’t want squirrels or the neighborhood cats preying on the birds. Let’s review your options.
You won’t feed birds for long before discovering your most formidable nemesis: squirrels. Remember that these animals are opportunistic. Anything is fair game in their world, including your bird feeder and its contents. Squirrels learn quickly. One of the best ways to outwit them is following the 5-7-9 rule.
That means that the best location for a bird feeder is at least 5 feet high, 7 feet from any launching point like a tree, and 9 feet below said launching point. The rule is based on the physical capabilities of squirrels. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some people may not have a place that fits the bill. Give it a try if you can.
Another excellent choice for the best place for a bird feeder is a place that has something else your avian visitors need—water. It can be a pond or stream, or you can use a birdbath to make the site even more appealing. Bear in mind that having a birdbath is just as much of a commitment as feeding them.
Always keep the bath filled and consider the health of the birds. Foul water can increase the risk of disease. Therefore, regular cleaning is imperative. You’ll have to deal with freezing during the winter, too.
Animals need three things to survive: food, water, and shelter. Birds also need nesting spots. Many species are particular about where and how high they’ll roost. For example, Northern Cardinals typically build their nests up to 15 feet high. On the other hand, Grasshopper Sparrows are ground nesters. The takeaway is that birds need hiding places to rest and protect them from predation.
A fun take on bird feeding is getting one that attaches to a window. It’s an excellent way to teach your children about our avian friends by getting to see them up close. Your cat will also enjoy watching the birds flitting around without any concerns about it hurting them. Keep in mind that these feeders require frequent cleaning since they are often partially enclosed.
Bees will prove challenging if you have a hummingbird feeder. These insects usually target large flowers with a lot of nectar. Some flowers have evolved to dissuade bees and encourage hummingbirds with the color and shape of their blooms. That’s why most hummingbird feeders are red. If you put it in the shade, you can keep bees from stealing the nectar.
Bees buzz around in sunny places because the flowers open up, making it easier to feed. Putting your hummingbird feeder in a shady place puts it off their radar. The birds won’t mind and will still come to it.
Putting your bird feeder near other bird-friendly plants will help provide them with a well-rounded diet. Seed-eating species, such as sparrows and goldfinches, will readily feed on seeds from native grasses, like Big Bluestem or Purple Coneflower. They’ll still come to your feeder. After all, it’s easy picking.
An unintended consequence of putting up a bird feeder is attracting other pests, such as mice. One way to avoid an infestation is to place the feeder away from your house. It also helps if you make your home inaccessible to these pests by filling in any holes or cracks in your foundation. We suggest getting an enclosed feeder instead of an open platform to minimize rodent problems.
A baffle is a must-have if you have a bird feeder. The premise is astonishingly simple yet effective. The slick surface makes it challenging for a squirrel to crawl up or sit on top of it. The birds have free access without the bother of an interloper stealing their food. No matter where you put your feeder, make sure you get a baffle.
The whole point of getting a feeder is to enjoy some birdwatching. That’s why we suggest putting it someplace where you can easily observe the action. It’s also helpful for keeping an eye on the food supply. We recommend choosing a site that is accessible for you to make cleaning and refilling it as easy as possible.
Some birds, such as Black-Capped Chickadees, are very social and even friendly toward humans. They aren’t as picky about where you place a feeder. Others are a bit warier and may be less inclined to visit it if you have it in a high-traffic area. We suggest erring on the side of caution and putting your bird feeder in a quieter spot so that all the backyard avian friends will come to it.
The number one tip we can give you is that if you start feeding your birds, don’t stop abruptly, especially during the winter. Birds depend on reliable food sources, and your bird feeder will quickly become something they rely on. Research suggests that some species, such as Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, have thrived due to the actions of people like you. Remember that your responsibilities also include cleaning the feeder regularly.
We also recommend observing what birds are in your neighborhood before buying seeds. Some have strong preferences for specific foods. Knowing the species in your area can help you make informed food choices.
By the same token, we suggest checking what’s underneath the feeder occasionally, particularly if you fill your feeder with a blend. If you notice large amounts of an uneaten seed, it’s probably a wise plan to look for a different product.
Feeding birds and watching them is a rewarding activity for the entire family. It has brought many people solace during the dark days of the pandemic. Selecting the right spot for your feeder will benefit you and your avian visitors. You’ll provide the things birds need for survival while avoiding wasting food on squirrels and other pests.
Featured Image Credit: Ami Parikh, Shutterstock
Chris has been writing since 2009 on a variety of topics. Her motto with all of her writing is “science-based writing nurtured by education and critical thinking.” Chris specializes in science topics and has a special love for health and environmental topics, and animals of all shapes and sizes.
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