Setting up your first bird feeder

Bird on Wingscapes AutoFeeder Bird FeederBird on Wingscapes AutoFeeder Bird Feeder

So you’ve just purchased your first bird feeder, and you just can’t wait to get it set up and start watching for your first visitors! This can be very exciting, but don’t rush into it just yet, there are some important considerations you need to make in order to really get the most out of your new feeder. You will no doubt spend countless hours admiring your favorite new visitors, but first you need to carefully think about where you are going to place your feeder, how you plan on keeping squirrels away, and how you are going to draw birds to your feeder. Taking the time to set up your feeder with these considerations in mind and using the super sturdy Wingscapes Autofeeder will ensure that you can enjoy watching your native birds with minimal maintenance for years to come! .

Where to place your feeder

You bought your bird feeder for one reason above all others, to see more birds! So the very first thing to consider when thinking about where to place your new feeder, is where you are going to view it from. You want your feeder to be easily viewable from the places you naturally spend a lot of time throughout the day. The committed home cook will want to be able to see their feeder while they work in the kitchen. The avid reader will want to be able to glance at their feeder through the window as they turn pages from the comfort of their favorite chair. The home gardener or back porch dweller will have even more good options for places to set up their feeders. Regardless of where you like to spend time in or around your home, make sure to set up in a spot where you can really enjoy the visitors your feeder brings!

Another variable to consider is that birds will want to scope out a feeder before approaching, and will often fly away to eat what they pick up from your feeder, before quickly returning to pick up more. You will want to place your feeder in a location where your local birds can see it from a distance, preferably from the branches of a nearby native tree or shrub. With this in mind, you may want to plan your landscaping around preserving or planting native plant life, as this is where your local birds are going to feel most comfortable checking out your feeder before approaching. If you also garden, take note of any of your garden plants that birds take an interest in. Setting up your feeder close to places that birds are already visiting is a sure way to make sure you get plenty of traffic to your feeder, and more opportunities to enjoy spotting your favorite native birds!

Setting up your feeder to be squirrel proof

Every neighborhood will have its own pests and unwanted critters,but the most persistent and most likely to cause you problems are squirrels. While most of us don’t have to worry about flying squirrels, even the average squirrel can jump incredible distances, up to 8 feet horizontally and even up to 5 feet vertically. No matter what specific kinds of squirrels live in your area, you can be sure that they will at the very least attempt to access your feeder. There are certain foods that you can use to make your feeder less appealing to squirrels, but more on that later. In general squirrels will be drawn to most types of bird feed, but you can take several steps in setting up your feeder to seriously minimize the likelihood of your feed being stolen by a furry critter rathered than a feathered friend. The 6-8-10 rule is a good rule of thumb to guide you in placing your feeder in the least squirrel accessible location possible. 

The 6-8-10 Rule:

  • Make sure that your feeder is at least 6 feet off the ground, so that squirrels can’t jump up to it.
  • 8 feet below any overhanging branches or rooftops, so that it can’t be jumped down to.
  • 10 feet away from any fences or trees horizontally, so that squirrels will miss the jump from that angle as well.

Beyond placement, there are several other steps you can take while setting up your feeder to make sure that your birds have a secure place to feed without critters interfering. The type of feed you use can be a significant factor in how interested squirrels and other pests are in your feeder. The most popular feeds for birds are generally high energy dry foods, like black oil sunflower seed, and even peanuts. Unfortunately these types of foods will draw significant attention from squirrels who are more than happy to barge in to steal your bird feed. However, squirrels do not have any interest in Nyer seed or Golden Safflower seed, two types of feed that are very appealing to small songbirds!

 Several of the built-in features of the Wingscapes Autofeeder can be used to help deter squirrels as well. The 1 gallon reservoir is built sturdy and is entirely inaccessible to critters. Carefully setting the timer to dispense exactly the right amount of food at the times your birds like to come by to eat will minimize the amount of excess feed available to tempt squirrels. The built in baffle over the feeding tray is very effective at preventing squirrels from gaining access from above, though if you are setting your feeder up on a pole you will want to make sure you have a baffle or some other squirrel proofing measure installed on the pole itself,l to minimize routes of access to your feeder. 

Hopefully these measures will see to it that your local squirrels lose interest in your feeder, but there is one more effective method of keeping squirrels away from your feeder, though it may not be appealing to some.Squirrels can be persistent but they are smart enough to eventually stop wasting time on your bird feeder if they locate a more reliable and easier to access food source. So if you have particularly acrobatic or persistent furry visitors, or even if you just enjoy seeing squirrels in the yard as well, you can set up a seperate squirrel feeding station. This does not need to be a complex setup, an old ground feeder, platform feeder or even just hanging ears of corn in an easy to access location will work! Just make sure it’s plenty far away from your bird feeder, to allow both the birds and squirrels to feast in peace!

Drawing in the visitors you really want

Now that you’ve chosen a place to set up, make sure to consistently fill your feeder with good, high energy dry foods, if you have the Wingscapes AutoFeeder you can go much longer between refills while being sure your birds have constant access to fresh dry seed. Try not to worry if you don’t start seeing birds on the day you set up. It may take several days or even weeks for your local birds to find and start consistently using your feeder. If you aren’t noticing much traffic, try spreading feed around your yard in areas that birds will be able to notice your feeder from. “Casting a wide net” so to speak, will help birds that may have taken longer to notice your feeder to find it much more quickly. Just make sure to keep an eye out for unwanted critters eating any food you’ve spread in the yard, you don’t want to end up attracting the attention of the wrong kind of visitors! Making sure that you always have plenty of fresh food available will show your neighborhood birds that your feeder is a dependable source of nourishment, and you will get more return visitors as time goes on.

Birds are also easily drawn by the sound of running water, if you just happen to be setting up somewhere that is conveniently close to a natural moving water source you are in luck! If not, don't worry, there are several options still available to you for drawing birds in with water. The most effective, though likely most expensive option is to install a moving water feature or fountain to your outdoor landscape, but if that is not possible, you can always use a bird bath. If you do choose to use a bird bath there are a few things to keep in mind. First you’ll of course need to change the water and clean your birdbath frequently to ensure that you are providing clean water to your birds, they are going to be both drinking and bathing in this water. Second, while moving water takes lower temperatures to start freezing, a bird bath will freeze over much more quickly. You may want to consider adding a heater to your bird bath, nothing too dramatic, it doesn’t have to be a little birdie hot tub, just enough to keep your bird bath from freezing over and becoming a birdless miniature ice-skating rink.