Bird Watcher's General Store

“A Cape Cod Destination Icon For 40 Years”

Choosing Feeders

Dear Bird Folks:

I want to buy my parents a bird feeder for Christmas, but I found myself totally confused by the conflicting selection that they had at my local garden center. The clerk was friendly, but just as clueless about the feeders as I was. My wife suggested I write to those Cape Cod bird people for feeder advice. Any suggestions on which feeder I should buy my folks?

-Stewart, Thompson, CT


Swell Stewart, Just swell.

Not only do I have the huge task of choosing the proper Christmas gifts for the people on my list, but now I have the added pressure of selecting what you should get for your family in Connecticut. And all because your local garden center is run by friendly dumb people. Why can’t you just write a letter to Santa like everyone else? Santa never makes mistakes. Well, except for the time he brought me Elmo underwear. I don’t know what went wrong that year.

There are a lot of really good feeders out there Stewart, but in fairness to you and the friendly clerk, there are a lot of stink bombs out there too. It’s easy to be fooled by the ones with all the artsy bling-bling on them, but a good rule of thumb is, when it comes to bird feeders, the uglier the better. Bird feeders and guard dogs need to look down right ugly to get the job done. A bird feeder in the shape of a church, castle or Graceland isn’t going to make it through many New England winters. Just like a Peek-a-poo isn’t going to keep many bad guys from stealing the gold you have hidden under your bed, even if you do take the bow out of its hair.

When I say ugly, I don’t mean it has to look like a gargoyle or an NHL hockey player, but it can’t have cutesie flowers on it either. A good feeder should be all about lasting for years and not about driving up your property value. I find the best feeders are made in this country and not overseas. Believe me, I have no issues with imported products. But unlike cameras and TVs, right now, the best bird feeders are built here. I would choose one of those.

Any good feeder must be easy to fill, but more importantly easy to clean. A good feeder is made to come apart quickly so you can remove any old or wet seed. If you can’t figure out how to clean the feeder, don’t buy it. Many people are attracted to feeders with large capacities, so they won’t have to fill them as often. That can be a mistake. Often times seed will get wet and spoil before it can all be eaten. Several small feeders might be a better choice than one extra large one. Also consider the tiny birds that are going to use the feeder. Avoid feeders with sharp metal or glass.

Wooden feeders appeal to many people and if taken care of, they will last. But more often than not, wooden feeders will be chewed up. So if you buy a wooden feeder you’ll need to protect it from squirrels, raccoons and, most importantly, beavers.

If you are going to buy your folks only one feeder Stewart, I suggest a tube style feeder. Tube feeders are usually three or four inches around, 18 inches tall, and clear, with metal on the cover, metal perches (no the bird’s feet won’t stick) and metal on other key points to keep the mammals from chewing them up. Good tube feeders are easy to fill, easy to clean, keep the seed reasonably dry and are easy to squirrel proof with baffles. Tube feeders cost between twenty and thirty bucks and most have a lifetime warranty.

I know what you are thinking, this all sounds good, but twenty or thirty bucks is a lot to spend for a Christmas present, especially when it’s only for your parents. Maybe you could get some other siblings to chip in. If not, then forget the whole thing and buy them a set of Elmo underwear and let them share.