Monday, February 1, 2016

Gilding the Store-bought Bird Feeder

"In order to see birds, it is necessary to become part of the silence."
--Robert Lynd
After I moved to the hilltop, I had the luxury of doing nothing. Every morning, I made coffee and sat at the kitchen table, silently watching birds flit from tree to tree. I was a novice bird enthusiast, eager to learn. I'd never lived in a place that had such a large songbird population, and I began reading about how to attract them to my yard. I discovered that variety is the spice of a bird--and a birder's--life. Different birds liked different types of feeders and seeds.  Some preferred to dine in the open, and others needed to be near trees or shrubs for quick getaways.  And some information was flat-out conflicting. What's a novice to do? I guess it comes down to knowing what works for the birds that live in your little corner of the world.

One day, while cleaning the garage, I found a couple of old bird feeders. I gave them a good cleaning, then hung them from metal shepherd's crooks, which I'd bought during after-Christmas sales at the local farm/feed supply store.
 The birds arrived. Black-capped Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, woodpeckers, and finches. I bought more feeders. Now and then, a blue jay and mockingbird would show up, but they didn't act like bullies, for some reason. Most of the time, the smaller birds perched in trees and nearby bushes, eyeing the feeders, as if waiting for a turn. And, after grabbing a seed, they would return to the trees.

Like most novices, I decided to try a few experiments. My goals were to provide perching places for the little birds and to provide nutrition for all. I decided to gild an old feeder, using pretzel rods for "shingles" and seeds pressed into a peanut butter base. You can add cornmeal and other ingredients--recipes are all over the Internet.  (I researched the pros and cons of feeding peanut butter to wild birds. You can read about it HERE and HERE.)

Smear peanut butter onto the clean rooftop of your feeder. (I put safflower seeds into the feeder to discourage blackbirds.)

I broke the pretzels so they would fit the roof, then added seeds. The feeder has two suet holders. In one, I put a storebought cake; the other holds yarn, bits of string, dryer lint, old leaves and twigs. With this crazy warm weather, you just never know when birds will start thinking about building a nest.

Eventually, I will replace all suet cakes with nesting materials.

I put a metal platform feeder on the ground to collect stray seeds. Doves and cardinals enjoy the platform.
Chilly temperatures helped to harden the peanut butter. But an overnight downpour knocked off two pretzels. I added fresh seed daily. I will continue to make notes on this project and report the results.

 While I explored the barn, I found an old thistle feeder. After cleaning it, I added nyjer seed, then tied on a little greenery, so the finches would have places to perch.  I found another finch feeder in the yard and gave it a good cleaning. I hung it 10' feet away from the original feeder. These feisty, little birds often have mid-air squabbles, and since I have quite a large finch population (yellow and red finches), I want to give them several feeding stations, along with green "perching" spots. (Note: replace the ivy as needed. If you use nyjer, check every few days to make sure it's fresh, as it has a tendency to spoil in damp weather.)

Platform feeders are quite popular with chickadees and cardinals.

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  1. This is so cute!! It seems actually really easy to make!

  2. Lots of great ideas in your post! I use peanut butter in my bird cake recipe, along with hulled seed and cracked corn, birds love it. I love that little platform feeder that looks like a bench. I am going to look for one of those!

  3. Such a great idea. You are such a good bird mommy!

  4. I admire your creative approach to feeding birds with the pretzels and peanut butter. I want to buy one of those shepherd's crook holders to hold another feeder, good idea, and to get a platform feeder. Our morning doves like the food I put on the top rail of our six foot tall wooden fence, so that is sort of a platform feeder.

  5. I really enjoyed this post. I love feeding our resident birds and any that just happen to fly in for the day. I got some great ideas here. Thank you. I think I'll try to make a feeder like that platform bench-style one. Deb

  6. Lucky birds that live on your property. Our poor birds have to fight off the pesky squirrels who like to steal the goods from the feeders.

  7. You found the way to my heart. I am a avid bird photographer and I love every single way you chose to feed the birds and I especially love the nest building supplies you offered. I find it amazing that birds will take a single strand of hair and use it to help build their nests, but they do. Carol

  8. I like this post, as may surmise by my blog name. : - )

    Well done, great ideas - thank you!

    One more hint: One should never EVER begin to feed birds unless completely committed, as this will be indicated as a food source for them and they will starve if it snows and one doesn't feel like filling the feeders. So, it is a bit of a promise to them through good and bad weather once you are established as a feeding spot. : - )

    Hugs. ♥

  9. Watching birds come to my feeder is a whole new source of entertainment for me. I will have to get a little more inventive with seeds to see if it makes a difference in what birds come to fee.

  10. We are going to be making feeders in my preschool class. The kids are really excited. This will help out alot when we are choosing seed to feed them.

  11. How darling these are. You have inspired me!

  12. The enjoyment I've gotten from feeding the birds and squirrels in our yard is immense! In the summer and fall, you can add a bird bath and you'll just love watching them sip and splash! You should consider counting your feathered friends starting next week through the Great Backyard Bird Count via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
    I just love the "life" they bring to the seasons. I started feeding them in the winter and one year, I continued throughout the summer and, lo and behold, I swear I had even more birds and so I've kept it up adding misters and baths(no, I'm not a crazy bird lady!), and I've found the sweetest pleasure in their chatter and can distinguish some of their calls. Spending the most time in the kitchen allowed me to spot hawks gliding in and resting in the trees and I'd jump into action, flying out onto the patio to scare them away. Some are quite bold and don't fly off so easily! At any rate, I can see you've already gained great appreciation for them and I know they'll provide you with the same pleasure I derive.

    1. Thank you So much for the link. I'd read about the count and promptly forgot. I'm just like you about chasing hawks, lol. Thanks again!

  13., love the feeders!....How so very beautiful and creative!....

  14. Wow, you and Mary are the bird nuturers! I really enjoyed reading this, as I know nothing about our feathered friends...your feeders are so thoughtfully planned and the white bench is adorable!

  15. Sooo cute! Great job taking care of the birds!

  16. Until last year, I'd never had a bird feeder and one day I bought one and was hooked. My mother said "It's about time". Same thing she said when I picked up gardening 8 or 10 years ago LOL Funny how we end up more like our mothers then we'd think ;)