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Bird Feeders
by Linda Tomlinson
by Linda Tomlinson

email: your_garden@hotmail.com

Linda Tomlinson received a diploma in Horticulture from Olds College as well as a B.ed from the University of Calgary.

She has worked in many aspects of the Horticulture in Alberta as well as a stint in a Nursery in Australia.

Linda has taught adult Ed classes in Horticulture. She has a weekly column in The Red Deer Advocate going into her third year.


October 14, 2007


Invite some birds into the garden this winter. They are interesting to watch and leave a minimal amount of mess behind. Expect to find wing, body and foot prints, along with hulls and seeds they have missed or rejected. 
The location of the feeder is more important than its style. Most birds prefer a sheltered location; one where birds of prey can not fly overhead. It is also best not to place them too close to a shrub where cats or dogs might hide. From the human point of view, position to feeder where it is easily viewed from a window. To avoid the birds hitting the window, have the feeder close enough for the birds to see the glass or far enough away that they don’t venture near. The feeder should not be placed between 3- 10 ft (1- 4 M) of any window. 
Making a feeder with children is a fun, cold day activity. Feeders can be simple or complicated, depending the age, and ability of the builders. 
The type of feeder and feed has a direct correlation to the variety of birds that will frequent it. 
A ground feeder, one that rests on the ground, or a few inches from it, is the simplest to make. If a mess isn’t a problem, spread the seed on the ground. Unless it has shelter it will need swept, after a heavy snow fall. Less mess is made if the seed is spread on a tray with low sides. The tray needs to be heavy enough not to tip when birds perch on its sides.
Gallon buckets and milk jugs can be recycled into feeders. Make sure that all containers are clean and the edges are not sharp. Place drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess moisture to drain. The size of holes made in the sides, for the birds to retrieve the seed dictates what bird will use it. Small holes exclude the larger birds. Hang the feeders from a tree or from a stand.
Sunflower seeds attract the widest variety of birds. Be wary of buying commercial mixes as they contain a filler seed that local birds won’t eat. The birds will push unwanted seeds out of the feeder, leaving a mess. In the spring the seeds germinate and become weedy.
Suet feeders are also easy to make. Fat or suet can be purchased from the butcher and hung as is. It can also be purchased as lard which allows it to be mixed with a variety of other foods such as: peanut butter, cornmeal, rolled oats, raisons and other small fruits. Hang the suet mixture in a net bag from a tree or hanger. It must be high enough off the ground to avoid being devoured by dogs and far enough from a branch to discourage the squirrels. 
Large pine cones rolled in peanut butter or a suet mixture are a favorite of many birds and will need replenished often. This same mixture can be spread on a piece of wood that is cut into a decorative shape. Do not use treated or painted wood. Seeds glued to paper are not acceptable as the birds eat the glue along with the seeds.
For those who are looking for more of a challenge, choose a pattern and cut a feeder out of wood. If the tools are not available, buy a ready to assemble kit.
If making a feeder is not an option, consider purchasing one. Look for feeders that are well made. Ones that hold a large quantity of seed need filled less often. Perches are needed to allow the birds to land, hold on, and reach the food.
Once the birds become regular feeders make sure there is always food, as they depend on it as a food source.

For more information on feeding birds look for Myrna Pearman’s Winter Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide", or "NatureScape Alberta" by Myrna Pearman and Ted Pike.

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