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  • ClearSight Staff

BIRD FEEDER FAQs

From where to place your feeders to what type of seed to use to attract different birds, we have put together a list of some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to bird feeders. Have a question we didn't cover? Send us a message!


Q: How do I choose a bird feeder?

A: Ultimately It depends on what types of birds you’d like to attract and how much space you have available. For some without backyards, window bird feeders are a nice option to view birds up close. Tube bird feeders are a nice addition as they are pretty easy to keep stocked and cleaned but typically cater to smaller birds. Often people start with a single feeder and then add a few more to attract different species based on the feed they like best.

Q: What type of seed should I use?

A: Most beginners start with regular store bought bird seed. My recommendation is to use premium seed (if you can afford it) instead of cheap seed with lots of fillers like cracked corn and millet which can attract less desirable birds and other critters like squirrels. Most songbirds like black-oil sunflower and safflower seeds (including Cardinals, Finches, Sparrows, etc). Some like nuts and peanuts which are available in premium seed choices. Mealworms attract insect loving birds like Bluebirds and Wrens.

Q: Is it hard to attract birds?

A: Usually they will find you within a few weeks if you keep a regularly stocked feeder and water sources nearby. Be patient for them to find you and get comfortable with a new feeding area. One tip is to “Chum” the birds when you get a new feeder by placing small piles of seed/feed in visible places nearby that will attract them more quickly.

Q: What do I do about squirrels?

A: Squirrels are amazing athletes! If free food is available, they will use their skills to get to it. There are different options available to try. Poles can add squirrel baffles to keep them off pole hanging feeders. Some people recommend Slinkys for poles(yes Slinkys! Just make sure they don’t stretch all the way to the ground or they become ineffective). There are also Squirrel-proof feeders available that have external cages with holes too small for squirrels or with weight bearing springs that close off the seed with the heavier weight of a squirrel. Another idea is to use “Hot Pepper” seed. Squirrels don’t like it, but it doesn't seem to bother birds. Lastly, some try to bribe squirrels by putting out food for them in a different location and hoping for a truce of some kind. Whatever works for you!

Q: What about “bully” birds?

A: Some birds find your feeder and decide to get territorial. Mostly this pertains to larger birds, however, I’ve also seen some smaller birds attempt to chase off even larger species! Unfortunately, unless you want to be a “fulltime Hall Monitor”, the best option is to have multiple feeders available that a single bird can’t monopolize or use seed like Safflower that some of the larger bully birds don’t like.

Q: What is Waste Free Seed?

A: It is seed without the seed husks. It just contains the seed hearts to reduce husk debris. It is more expensive than regular seed, but is recommended for high traffic areas, decks, and patios where piles of discarded seed husks are not desirable.

Q: How do different feeders impact bird health?

A: Many people are unaware that thousands of birds die every year due to bird-borne diseases like Salmonella. Experts believe poorly maintained bird feeders and birdbaths are the culprits where birds congregate and infect others. Most diseases are spread through birds’ feet as they step in fecal matter and then contaminate feeders. Keeping feeders cleaned and disinfected regularly is critical to protecting birds. We recommend finding a feeder that is easy to clean and maintain.

We do not recommend platform feeders as birds walk in and amongst the seed contaminating the feed with every step. Tube feeders are better with their limited perch sizes. There are a few feeders that have incorporated antimicrobial to inhibit microbe growth including the EcoClean Tube Feeder and the ClearView Deluxe Window Bird Feeder.

Q: How do I clean and maintain a bird feeder?

A: To effectively prevent disease, experts recommend you sanitize or disinfect bird feeders every two weeks or so to adequately kill dangerous microbes like Salmonella. Unfortunately, just cleaning by hand with dish soap doesn’t kill microbes. There are a few new feeders which claim to be dishwasher safe (check with the directly) that make for easier maintenance. For traditional bleach cleaning see this link. https://feederwatch.org/blog/cleaning-preventing-disease

Q: Is it ok to clean my feeder with dish soap by hand?

A: Unfortunately, hand cleaning does not kill bacteria and other dangerous microbes. Only disinfecting via bleach or sanitizing in a dishwasher will effectively kill most diseases.

Q: What type of birds should I expect?

A: It depends on your region and season as well as the feeder you select and the type of feed.

Q: Should I provide water?

A: Yes! Birds need access to clean water sources and safe alternatives may not be available to them. If you have or set up a birdbath, make sure to replace the water frequently and whenever you see excrement. Some window feeders also have water as an option. Just make sure it’s not right next to the seed or it will get dirty quickly.

Q: Where should I place my feeder?

A: It depends on a number of factors including your yard size. Mounting a window feeder is obvious. Just be aware of the space beneath as birds can rummage through the feed to get to the “good stuff” they like.

If you set up a pole, make sure any droppings and seed husks can be cleaned up or consumed by the foliage underneath for a healthy feeding environment. If you have multiple feeders, provide some space between them to prevent “bully” birds from dominating a small area. Also, try to find a location where your favorite songbirds can’t be ambushed by predators.

Wild Bird Feeder types:

  • Hopper/House feeders

  • Window bird feeders

  • Tube feeders

  • Squirrel-Proof feeders

  • Peanut/Ring feeders

  • Fruit/Oriole feeders

  • Hummingbird feeders

  • Suet cage feeders

  • Platform feeders

  • Finch Socks

  • Smart/Camera feeders

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