Thursday, November 3, 2011

Up Go the Bird Feeders

From left, nyjer, sunflower seed, suet feeders

Today I enjoyed a beautiful autumn day by doing one of my favorite fall chores—putting up our bird feeders.  In recent years I’ve tried to hang them by mid-November, but today’s sunny skies and 60°F. temperature beckoned me to “get out the feeders” now. 

The left feeder has nyjer seed, commonly called “thistle,” especially for goldfinches and any of their finch cousins that care to dine.  The center feeder has black-oil sunflower seeds, the favorite of many species.  The right feeder contains suet that is exposed through hardware cloth on the bottom of the feeder.  Woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches are skilled at eating upside down, but not those suet gluttons the starlings.

I didn’t ring a bell to announce “Chow time,” but the serving line began to form in minutes.  First to arrive were two chickadees and a pair of titmice that started carrying off single sunflower seeds to nearby shrubs and trees to crack and eat.  I’ve also seen one female goldfinch, a male house finch, a junco, a downy woodpecker and—wait—three squirrels!


Already the gray critters have shimmied up the galvanized pipes and across the loose PVC pipe I installed to keep the opportunists off balance.  I shooed them twice and then did what I had forgotten to do—to coat the upright pipes with petroleum jelly.  Hey, take that, sticky paws!  And, Bob, remember the petroleum jelly next spring before you grab the poles to take down the feeder support for the summer.

A first responder: titmouse samples suet
I suppose we’ll have lots of warm, sunny fall weather over the next month or so, but I’m happy that the feeders are up and the birds are getting to know that they’ll have a place to grab a snack when the really bad, winter weather sets in.

If you’re thinking of building a feeding station, consider building something like what I’ve made.  I bought 1” galvanized pipe at Home Depot in precut, prethreaded lengths.  The top that holds the feeders has the following lengths and parts: one 36” for the center; two 24” for the ends; plus two T-joints (between center piece and the end pieces, with the support pipes going down) and two elbows and two caps for the ends.  The uprights were probably 10’, but I cut off 12” or so because the contraption was too tall for me to conveniently refill the feeders.  The six pieces of 2” PVC pipe are loose to discourage squirrels.  They also help keep the feeders in position.

Unseen parts:  Below ground are two four-gallon buckets, each with a 18” piece of 2” PVC pipe centered and sticking up and out the top of the bucket several inches and above the mulch several inches.  To keep the PVC pipe in position, I put a half bag of concrete mix in each bucket and made sure the two pipes were plumb when the concrete began to set.  The buckets stay in place year round, and I simply remove the feeders and lift out the support structure for summer storage in our garage.

After exposure to more than 10 winters, the structure has fewer signs of aging than I do, but then I’ve been around for more than 10 winters


  1. Nice system for your feeders. Saw one similar to this in Birds and Bloom magazine. Now you just have to get two squirrel baffles to put on the upright poles and you will never have to grease the poles again.

  2. I love the Suet feeder. I'll have to build one. As for only winter feeding, I feed my birds all year to keep them in my garden eating bugs. My seetup is a 4x4 post with 2 3 foot pipes through it. a feeder hangs on the end of each post. I stop the squirrels using a piece of 6 inch stove pipe attached to the 4x4. Squirrels can't hold onto it and cant climb between the pipe and 4x4. Works great. Of course, the squirrels do pickup the leftovers under the feeders.

  3. Love the suet feeder. Great idea.