Create A Food Court For Birds

Sometimes, you’re glad to be in a mall food court or near a “restaurant row,” where enough choices are close by to please everybody. Have you thought of creating a Food Court for Birds in your back yard? Like people, birds have preferences about what, where, and how they like to eat. Here’s how you can build a Food Court for the birds in your neighborhood.

Dining out is supposed to be easy and fun, but trying to find a restaurant your whole group can agree on is next to impossible.  Sometimes, you’re glad to be in a mall food court or near a “restaurant row,” where enough choices are close by to please everybody.  Have you thought of creating a Food Court for Birds in your back yard?  Like people, birds have preferences about what, where, and how they like to eat.  Here’s how you can build a Food Court for the birds in your neighborhood.

Platform feeders are shallow wooden frames with durable screened bottoms (stainless steel is the most durable) for good drainage.  Some stand on short legs, others mount on poles, but all offer easy cleaning—just pick ‘em up and dump ‘em out.

A low platform feeder featuring millet or cracked corn will attract ground feeders like the Varied Thrush, Spotted Towhee, Oregon Junco, Mourning Dove, a variety of sparrows, and even quail.  You might try a platform feeder several feet off the ground for larger birds and those birds that are leery of enclosed feeders.

Fly-through feeders have a roof to protect food from the elements.  A lower roof may discourage larger birds, giving the little guys a better chance.

Platform and fly-through feeders are the only ones that work well with a variety of foods all at once – put millet in one corner, sunflower seed in another, peanuts in another, and you’ll enjoy a wide variety of visitors.  For ultimate convenience, fly-through feeders with screen bottoms are great.

Hopper feeders have storage bins that hold lots of seed.  That’s a real convenience for hard-to-reach locations and for popular foods like black-oil sunflower seed.  A hopper feeder is also a good choice for windy locations, where lighter foods can blow away.

Tube feeders, plastic cylinders with openings and perches, are a favorite with smaller birds.  These plastic versions of the hopper feeder don’t absorb water and are easy to clean.  A “tube top” or plastic dome can offer some protection from wet weather.  Add a tray on the bottom, and even larger birds can access the feeder.

Thistle feeders are tube feeders with small openings designed specifically to dispense the tiny thistle seed.  A thistle feeder can give less aggressive birds like goldfinches a better chance for an undisturbed meal.  House Finches, Pine Siskins, and even Song Sparrows may also enjoy your thistle feeder.  A thistle stocking feeder is an inexpensive way to experiment with thistle feeding.  Birds cling to the mesh bag of thistle and pick the seed out right through the fabric.

Suet Feeders attract bushtits, flickers, woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches.  A simple, wire mesh suet feeder mounted on a branch or tree trunk will work perfectly well unless starlings try to take over!  Starling-resistant suet feeders, having a roof and sides to force birds to cling and feed from the bottom, will help to discourage these dominant birds.  Backyard Bird Shop offers a variety of suets, from Almond, Blueberry and Peanut to insect suet and more!

Hummingbird feeders dispense a nectar substitute that can be easily made at home with sugar and water.  Hang your feeder near red, deep-throated flowers like salvia or fuschia, and hummingbirds will find it sooner.  Anna’s Hummingbirds stay in the Portland area all year long, so when fall comes you’ll need to decide whether to feed them through the winter, or remove your feeders until next spring.  Some other birds, like finches, may surprise you by patronizing your hummingbird feeder, too!

Window feeders have suction cups that allow you to mount them directly to a window.  This is great news for apartment dwellers, and even if you have a thriving Food Court in your yard, a window feeder can bring the birds up close for a good look.  Choose a window in a room that’s not too busy.  A tree or bush close by helps!

Cage feeders can save some seed for your birds, by thwarting squirrels’ attempts to raid the feeder!  Often a tube surrounded by wire mesh, these feeders allow small and mid-sized songbirds to slip through to perch on an internal tube feeder, but prevent access by squirrels, and larger birds like Scrub and Stellar’s Jays.  Other squirrel-resistant feeders are available, including those that close off access to the seed when a squirrel perches on them.

Water can attract a wider variety of birds to your yard than anything else you can provide!  All birds need a drink and a bath now and then.  Select from traditional cement pedestal bird baths, ground baths, hanging baths, aggregate baths and more,  to find one which complements your backyard theme.  Moving water is especially attractive to birds—a “mister” or “dripper” attachment will drip fresh water into your birdbath.  Birdbath de-icers are beneficial for cold winter weather.

Finally, consider habitat as an important factor in attracting birds.  The more natural cover you can offer – shrubbery and trees, heavy brush, snags and standing dead timber—the more birds will feel welcome in your yard.