Wednesday, September 3, 2008


This is the year I’m going to revamp my bird feeding station. Living right on the lake is wonderful, but the winds, spray and splashover can present a challenge to having birdfeeders in my backyard. People ask me why I don’t put the feeders at the front of my house, where they would at least have a bit of shelter. The answer is simple: my office is in the back, so is easier for me to see the birds. This isn’t just selfishness on my part; it’s also easy for me to keep an eye on things. Since I am writing full time at the computer, I can easily spot the occasional cat on the prowl. Plus there’s a crank-down awning, as well as a place to anchor my vertical strips of yellow “crime scene tape,” both of which deter birds from hitting the windows. Beyond those precautions, I’m also making some changes with the type of feeders themselves.

I’m replacing my tube/platform combo with a couple of free-hanging tubes and a hopper feeder. Platform feeders are great because they allow for easy viewing of bird species that use them, but they can pose a threat to birds, too. Some birds, like chickadees and nuthatches, will take a single seed and fly to a second location to eat it. Others, like the finches and grosbeaks, just wade into the exposed seed, sit and eat. And defecate. Any feeder naturally concentrates a lot of birds in one feeding place, and thus potentially helps spread diseases, but a platform feeder is just that much more risky. Platform feeders also spill a lot of seed on the ground, which attract numerous brown-headed cowbirds. I like cowbirds, but they are brood parasites on many small songbirds, so I’d just as soon not give them a helping hand.

There are those who say we shouldn't feed wild birds at all. I see their point, and one year I decided to stop - but then I thought about that pair of cardinals in the snow and I was hooked again!

Well, that’s my plan, and as we move into September, I better get cracking!

Photo of the back of my house. The awning was up at the time, but you can see the yellow tape fluttering away. On windless days I lower the awning a bit to shade the glass. A bird does occasionally hit the window, and can get its bell rung pretty good, but at least it's not a fatality. I go out and move them to a bush til they recover.
Photo of male Cardinal from Shutterstock


Quiet Paths said...

I taped brightly colored ribbon to my Mom's windows and this has really helped cut down on the number of accidents. I was actually surprised at how well it worked. I love your little cottage on the lake. Great ideas for all of us bird enthusiasts. Thank you.

Sylvia K said...

I love your cottage, too! And I always enjoy your posts and love the pictures of birds. You seem to have many lovely things in your life! I know I do, too, and aren't we fortunate?

Kathiesbirds said...

Window strikes are always one of the hazards of bird feeding, but they happen even without feeders. One suggestion I have heard and tried is actually keeping the feeders closer to the windows. That way the bird can see the windows easier, or, they cannot build up enough speed to strike the windows hard if they are startled. You make some good points about spreadding disease. Sounds like you have come up with a workable solution. I, too, keep my feeders outside windows where I am most likey to hang out to optimize my viewing. Birds are under such stress from manmade intrusions that I would never feel guilty about feeding them. What a pleasure they are. Plus, there are only a few species of birds drawn to feeders. So many are insect eaters that we never see them at our feeders at all. Creating a wildlife habitat will draw in more birds than simply putting up feeders. Sounds like you already live in one! This is an excellent and informative post!

Deborah Godin said...

Quietpaths & Kathiesbirds - Yes, the fluttering tape really helps, and I find I barely notice it from the inside. It's especially a concern because my windows have that climate control film on them, which is more reflective than even plain window glass. I thought about moving the feeders closer but in the photo you can see where the grass ends, there really isn't a good place to anchor feeders, and the winds here can really get to be like Tropical Storm force, (remember in the Edmund Fitzgerald song about the "gales of November" on the Great Lakes? - he ain't kidding!)

Sylvia - Very fortunate indeed, and grateful every day!

bobbie said...

You've written a great post. You have actually thought about the birds' needs, beyond simply putting out seed. This is something most people do not do. They think only of their own pleasure at watching them. I hope a great many people like that will read this, and realize that they are actually putting the birds in danger.

Bob Dylan said...

a heated birdbath in winter brings many birds into my friend's otherwise frozen garden. and on hot days, a fountain that recycles water. providing a dust bath area is nice too.