Dear Bird Folks,
Maybe you can’t say specifically, but I’m wondering which bird feeder you think is the best to buy.
– Justin, Rutland, VT
I can say, Justin,
I can say whatever I want. We are only talking about bird feeders here, not national secrets or the special sauce on a Big Mac. Also, my opinion of the best feeder has changed several times over the years. If some company is unhappy that I didn’t pick their feeder this time around, I might think differently in the future, but only if they finally produce something that’s durable, easy to clean and doesn’t require special sauce.
New Englanders have a long tradition of feeding backyard birds. It’s our way of brightening up nasty winters. It’s also the reason the best feeder manufacturers, such as Duncraft, K-Feeders, Hyde and Aspects, are (or were) New England companies. The most widely known of this local group is Rhode Island’s Droll Yankees. Peter Kilham, who was both an inventor and a top-notch birder, started Droll Yankees in the early 1960s by selling record albums of bird songs. While the rest of the world was lining up to hear the sounds of the British Invasion, Peter was trying to convince folks to buy such hot numbers as Birds on a May Morning on vinyl. It seems hard to imagine now, but my shop actually used to sell those albums (although not very many). We did, however, sell a huge number of Droll’s next product, an innovative new tube birdfeeder.
Droll Yankees claims to be the first company to produce a tube-style bird feeder. This now familiar product is made from a clear acrylic tube with durable metal parts. Before Droll, most feeders were basically made of wood, often in the shape of a house or a barn. This style had a certain aesthetic quality to it, but it also allowed the seed to become wet, was hard to clean and offered little resistance to chew-happy squirrels. Droll Yankees’ feeders, for the most part, were impervious to squirrel chewing and if a feeder ever were to be damaged, Droll would replace the part at no charge. Any time I needed a piece to fix a feeder for a customer, I just called the good folks in RI and the parts were on the way. Eventually, though, the original people at Droll got old and tired and sold the iconic New England company to a bigger company in Colorado. Now when I need help, my call is routed to the dreaded call center somewhere. I don’t call them anymore.
Droll Yankees’ feeders have a lot of pluses, but there’s one big hole in their product line – a basic squirrel-proof feeder. The Flipper, Droll’s feeder that spins squirrels off, works fine, but it’s expensive and like a cell phone, it has to be charged regularly. To fill this squirrel-proof void, a different company, Heritage Farms, introduced the Absolute feeder. The Absolute feeder is basically a green metal box, with a counter-weighted perch. Whenever a squirrel steps on the perch, the feeder shuts down and the squirrel goes hungry. The Absolute feeder was a huge hit and highly successful. Year after year we sold hundreds of them, much to the delight of happy customers and much to the chagrin of defeated squirrels. Then one day it all changed. Some crafty squirrel somewhere learned how to defeat the feeder and quickly posted how to do it on squirrel social media, and that was the end of that. Bewildered customers were now complaining that their Absolute feeder had stopped being “absolute.” Darn it! We were back to square one and didn’t know what to tell our customers who had squirrel issues…which was all of them. Then, like a miracle, help arrived from Canada. Yes, Canada, the country noted for hockey, bacon and Celine Dion, began producing the best feeder we have ever seen. Thank goodness for O Canada!
The company, Brome Bird Care, was started twenty years ago when inventor, Paul Cote, dropped out of the shoe business (shoes?) and began designing bird feeders. His company now produces several different models, but they all basically work the same. Borrowing the tube design from Droll Yankees, with the ability to shut off the food source from Heritage Farms, Brome’s Squirrel Buster feeder is easy to fill, easy to clean and the birds, including fussy cardinals, readily come to it. In the fifteen years we have been selling the Squirrel Buster, not one customer has reported it being beaten by gray squirrels (chipmunks, raccoons and bears are a different story). In addition, Brome is so confident about their products, they will send you any parts that fail at no charge…and you don’t have to talk to anyone at a call center.
As I just mentioned, Brome has several different Squirrel Buster models, including special models specifically for thistle (niger) seed, one for peanuts and one for suet. I’ve used all of them and they all work great. Each one is well engineered, which surprises me considering the guy who designed the feeders used to produce shoes (shoes?). I’m a big fan of these feeders and I really like the company. However, there are two items I should point out. Brome’s website states they are advocates for social responsibility and resource preservation, yet their products are ridiculously over-packaged and are manufactured overseas. Hmm.
Out of all the feeders we sell, Justin, Brome’s Squirrel Buster Classic is my favorite. It works extremely well, the birds love it, the squirrels hate it and the company stands behind it. This feeder is also attractive and relatively affordable, but for some reason, smells a little like shoes.