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Backyard Bird Feeding in North Dakota

Before you buy a feeder, first consider where you will want to place it in your yard. Believe it or not, more birds will visit your feeder if it is properly located in your yard rather than randomly placed. What does proper placement involve? Since you will be watching birds from your house, select an area that offers an unobstructed view from a window. Do not place your feeder so far away from a window that you need binoculars to watch the birds, it defeats the purpose. Make sure you select an area that has easy, year-round access. When the weather turns bad and the snow gets deep, you may be reluctant to fill a feeder that is not in a convenient location. Your bird feeder should also be protected from direct wind. A bird feeder that is sheltered from the prevailing wind will attract far more birds than a feeder that is unprotected from the elements. Finally, consider the "mess" factor birds leave behind. Pick a location where discarded seed hulls and bird droppings won't be a clean-up problem. There are many styles and sizes of bird feeders from which to choose. In fact, it can be an overwhelming and confusing choice. Hopefully, we can make that choice easier for you. The following feeders are considered the most popular among people who feed birds:

1. Tube Feeder

There are many types and styles of tube feeders available. Most are constructed of clear PVC and have multiple feeding ports. Perches are usually located below the feeding ports, but can be removed if house sparrows become a problem. High-quality tube feeders will have metal feeding ports to prevent squirrel damage. Most tube feeders come with a tray that snaps onto the bottom to collect discarded seed hulls. The tray can be removed if grackles begin to use it as a perch to access the feeder. If you decide a tube feeder is the right choice for your backyard, you will still have one more decision to make. Tube feeders come in two designs: a sunflower tube feeder and a thistle tube feeder. The difference between the two is the size of the feeding ports. The thistle feeder has a smaller opening than the sunflower feeder to allow passage of the tiny thistle seed. Make sure the box that the tube feeder comes in designates whether it is a thistle or sunflower tube feeder. You may decide to hang both in your yard. By putting up a sunflower and thistle feeder, you will attract a larger variety of birds. Sunflower tube feeders will attract chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, and grosbeaks while a thistle tube feeder will appeal to pine siskins, goldfinches, redpolls, and maybe an occasional indigo bunting.

2. Pole-mounted Hopper Feeder

The hopper feeder is a box-shaped feeder that is mounted on a pole and placed into the ground. Seed comes out of the bottom onto a ledge as it is eaten by the birds. Since this type of feeder is usually large, you won't have to fill it as often as a tube feeder. The hopper feeder allows larger birds such as blue jays, grosbeaks, and woodpeckers to perch and feed. Unfortunately, grackles also find it easy. By adding a pole mounted hopper feeder to your yard, you will increase the opportunity for larger birds to visit and feed.

3. Tray or Ground Feeder

Tray feeders are the most simple of all bird feeders. As the name implies, the feeder looks like a tray: a flat bottom with four sides. These all-purpose feeders are used by a wide variety of birds such as juncos, redpolls, ground-feeding sparrows, mourning doves, pheasants, and sharp-tailed grouse. Most often, tray feeders are placed on or near the ground for birds that do not like to perch on tube or hopper feeders. There are some disadvantages to using this type of feeder. Since the seed is not protected from the elements, rain or snow will cause the seed to get wet and promote mold growth. The area around the feeder can get quite messy from bird activity and should be periodically cleaned to avoid attracting rodents.

4. Suet Feeder

Suet feeders are simple metal cages that hold animal fat. Suet cages can be purchased at stores that sell bird feed or can be made from hardware cloth and dowels. The Nongame Program's brochure entitled "Building Nest Structures, Feeders, and Photo Blinds" has plans on how to build suet feeders. Commercially made suet feeders are designed to hold rendered suet cakes. Rendered suet cakes can be purchased at most stores that sell bird seed. If you make your own suet or use deer fat trimmings, an onion bag serves as an excellent dispenser.

5. Nectar and Fruit Feeders

A. Nectar Feeder

There are many birds that do not eat seeds, thus a nectar or fruit feeder can help you attract species such as ruby-throated hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles. Many sizes and styles of nectar feeders are available. Nectar feeders for hummingbirds and orioles are similar with the only difference being that for orioles they are larger and colored orange instead of red. The nectar feeders are filled with a water/sugar solution that mimics nectar from flowers or fruit. You can buy sugar mixes at your local bird feeding store or make your own. To make your own, boil four parts water with one part sugar and let the mixture cool. Fill your nectar feeder and store the remaining solution in the refrigerator. It is unnecessary to add red or yellow food coloring to the solution since the nectar feeder is already colored. During the summer, you will need to clean the nectar feeder about twice a week. If neglected, the nectar will ferment and a black fungus will develop. To clean, soak the feeder in a diluted solution of bleach (1 ounce of bleach/2 quarts of water). Allow the feeder to dry before filling. Be aware that wasps or bees can become a problem at nectar feeders.

B. Fruit Feeder

Like nectar, fruit is a popular food for many bird species. Apples and oranges are the most popular and feeders to accommodate fruit are easy to make. Simply cut a 2"x4" stud to 12"-14" in length. Run two 3" deck screws through the stud near each end. Cut an orange or apple in half and stick the halves on the screws. Place the feeder on a stump, your deck, or the roof of your bin feeder and see which birds take a liking to your fruit.

Photos: Scott Gomes

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