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Creative Bird Feeder Materials & How-To 

If you’d like to make lovely bird feeders similar to those in my video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden, you’ll find materials, suggestions and how-to here.

Depending on the time of year, I’ll have as many as 20 birds of a dozen different species at feeders I’ve positioned outside my office, kitchen and dining room windows. I’m in the foothills northeast of San Diego where native plants such as oaks and fan palms provide nesting sites. The second-floor deck where most of my feeders are located is adjacent to trees with limbs for perching and hiding, is high enough to be safe from cats, and isn’t easy for squirrels or nocturnal varmints to access.

It’s helpful to have:
— A dozen rustproof heavy-duty steel S-hooks, each about 3 inches long
— About 15 feet of soft, flexible, rustproof wire. 
— A 6-foot-tall wrought-iron free-standing plant stand designed for hanging baskets.

If you’ll be hanging feeders from your home’s eaves, you’ll also need a hammer and nails, several feet of chain, and a stepladder.

Optional: Spray-paint for metal. I paint my repurposed metal and wire feeders with Rust-Oleum so they’re all the same color (to match my home’s trim).

Essential: Keep them clean! It’s better to not put food out than to let feeders get dirty. Feeding birds is messy. Every evening, I hose the area, bring in the feeders, and clean them with hot water and dish soap. I don’t let food come into contact with bird droppings, which can spread diseases. And if I see a sick bird at a feeder, I stop putting out food for several days.

I found this ornamental bird cage and glass dish—both candleholders—at a thrift store. About $6 total. The goldfinch was gratis.

Metal drink holders (aka “beverage stakes”) are designed to go next to lawn chairs to hold bottles or soda cans. They’re perfect for suet cylinders, providing you set each in a plastic lid that keeps the suet from crumbling away. (I give my birds suet year-round, even though I live in a mild climate, because the extra fat and protein encourages brood production. It also attracts woodpeckers, grosbeaks and jays.) Each holder has a long vertical bar for staking into the ground. I placed this one, being enjoyed by a male grosbeak, in the same 5-gallon plant container shown below.

Small dishes and votive cups are handy for peanuts and seeds. But once they get wet, birds won’t eat out of them, so clean and refill them daily. The bird is a spotted towhee.

The hanging candleholders (“tea light lanterns”) are available at Cost Plus World Market and Amazon. In them are 2.5-inch-diameter glass tea light holders (“votive holders”) that contain grape jelly (from any supermarket) and sugar water (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water, boil and let cool). You don’t want to fill the entire candleholder with food because it’s too much, will likely get wet or go to waste, and is hard to clean. You also may have to unhook the feeders to bring them inside for cleaning, which means getting out a stepladder. Tea light holders, on the other hand, can easily be removed, washed and dropped back into the candleholders. Even though they’re stable enough that their contents won’t splash onto birds, like the Anna’s hummingbird at lower right, it’s best not fill them to the brim.

The flower pot that the oriole is sitting on is by Fallbrook, CA artist-potter Alicia Iraclides, who also fashions the lovely copper loops that her pots hang from. The glass dish came from a thrift store (or possibly my kitchen cupboard). Regardless, at 5 inches in diameter, it’s a perfect fit. It doesn’t slide around, is shallow enough (1-1/2 inches) for birds to easily access, yet also is deep and wide enough to hold the right amount of food (1/4 cup of grape jelly or 1/2 cup of seed mix).

This 14-inch diameter metal bird cage came from Home Goods—a seasonal item. Here’s a similar one on Amazon. Also this “lantern.” The bars are about an inch apart, which is perfect for letting in small birds (like finches) and keeping out large ones (like jays and doves). If bars in your ornamental bird cage/bird feeder are closer together, prop the door open or bend and spread the wires so that little birds can come and go. I lined the cage with a paper towel and placed a glass saucer atop it, full of seed mix. This makes it easy to clean and helps elevate the birds for better viewing.

Both this stylized metal “nest” (16 inches in diameter) and bowl-like platter (10 inches) were thrift-store finds. I used coated, rustproof wire to secure the nest to the corner of the metal deck railing. I decided not to spray-paint it beige because it’s the same color of the railing. In the dish is Wild Birds Unlimited’s No Mess Blend which includes millet (which doves and quail like) and sunflower and nut bits that other birds enjoy. I also buy raw peanuts and sunflower seeds in bulk at Sprouts. Jays and titmice eat peanuts; finches prefer sunflower seeds—and nyger, but that’s too messy, perishable and expensive. There’s a grosbeak at left and oak titmouse at top.

This spherical candleholder came from a second-hand shop that specializes in utilitarian antiques. It originally was black, so I spray-painted it beige. Items like this are fun to hunt for and not difficult to find (hint: they’re often hanging from the ceiling, so look up). The best ones have an open design that lets you easily view birds that visit. Yes, birds will use feeders made of wood, plastic and other non-transparent materials, but isn’t getting a good look at these flitting, fleeting creatures what birdwatching is all about?

Related info on this site:

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.

 

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My Bird-Feeder Hobby

It may surprise you that my hobby is making bird feeders for my garden from repurposed objects. Most of my bird feeders are elegant and pretty, which is my preference. But a silly one—made from a brand-new bra (not mine, it’s way too big, ha)—went viral on Facebook and has had 26,000,000 views. Yep. Twenty-six. MILLION.

It’s a perfect example of how combining disparate items—in this case birds and bras—creates a third concept that transcends the two. And because it’s amusing, never-seen-before and a bit risqué, people have shared it to a fare-thee-well. If only I’d made even a penny per view!
I love to watch wild birds interacting with airy feeders, so I’ll often use wire bird cages. I think it’s fascinating (and ironic) to see wild birds try to squeeze their way into a cage. This one, which is both ornamental cage AND candle holder, is outside my office window. It’s one of several repurposed candle holders that have multiple glass votive holders filled with birdseed.
Above: “Staircase” candle holder ornamental birdcage, about $35 from Amazon. I spray-painted it off-white. 

Want to see more, and maybe make some bird feeders for your own garden? Watch my YouTube video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden. And even if you’re not into my odd hobby of creating bird feeders, I promise you’ll enjoy the dozen different kinds of wild birds who come to mine.

Related info on this site:

If you’d like to make lovely bird feeders similar to those in my video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden, you’ll find materials, suggestions and how-to…[Continue reading]
A house finch sits on a glass creamer I repurposed as a bird feeder. It once belonged to my grandmother but isn’t worth much because it’s…[Continue reading]

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.

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Thrifting for the Birds

House finch on a glass creamer I repurposed as a bird feeder. It once belonged to my grandmother but isn’t worth much because it’s chipped. She loved birds, so I know she’d approve.

My pastimes of thrifting and birding inspired me to create bird feeders from repurposed items. It began a few months ago when I was given a commercial feeder to trial. Its peaked roof is “cute” (to quote a friend), but it’s made of plastic (shudder) and is a color I call “hose green”—a blue-green not found in nature.

It also was too efficient. House finches (linnets) emptied it quickly, and one cup of seed mix is all I wanted to give them daily. Plus, watching these mice of the bird world stuff themselves became boring. All they did was sit, eat, and lunge at rivals who wanted to share the feeder.

I read up on wild birds—their habits, what species frequent the foothills of inland Southern CA, and what they eat. I also researched the ideal bird feeding experience for both birds and humans. Feeders should be located where you can watch easily from indoors, birds can dart into nearby branches, and well above the ground so cats can’t pounce and it’s difficult for rodents to help themselves.

So with bird-feeding in mind, I trolled estate sales and thrift shops. I decided to go with inexpensive objects I found in abundance: wrought iron candleholders with metal rings for votives in glass cups. It seemed that such shallow vessels (sans candles) would hold the right amount of bird seed, and metal rods in pleasing ornamental shapes would make good perches.

Although I planned to do only one feeding station at first, I went on to create three on the deck outside my kitchen and dining room. Much thought, creativity and fun went into modifying these three stations to maximize their appeal to me and to my feathered guests.

Bird feeders on a plant stand create a feeding station. Wire ball at center contains suet. Birds are house finches and, at the hummingbird feeder, an orange-crown warbler (also shown below).

I discovered that house finches will feed vertically if need be—beaks straight down and tail feathers skyward. This made me wonder what other antics and acrobatics these highly common little birds might do. Although I stopped short of adding a maze, I decided the ideal feeder needs an entertainment factor.

Also on the plant stand I hung an old wire birdcage. It’s still my favorite feeder. I love watching wild birds eagerly enter the cage, the door of which I’ve wired open to avoid accidentally trapping one. (I’ve also spread the wires a bit on the opposite side, so they have a second exit. They enter the cage that way, too.) A plump mourning dove, seduced by the scent of peanuts, also cages itself from time to time.

House finches come and go like adolescents with cars. They arrive all at once, boisterous and noisy; pushing, flapping, and ravenous; each with a wary eye out for the Lady of the House. When she appears, they take off with a whoosh, offering no thanks, apologies, or stacking of dishes.

In my tea party themed station, glass feeders make the birds easier to see.

I nailed two matching S-shaped candleholders horizontally beneath the eaves, then wired chains to them, and added hooks to hang tea cups, a sugar bowl and creamer, a tea pot, and a serving tray with a handle. The initial version used floral china cups, but I soon switched to glass. Glass is like solid air, so it suits an airy feeder, plus you can see the birds better as well as how much seed is left. I still need a transparent tea pot. Which is to say, I really need to go thrifting. Soon.

Tips for creating a feeding station and making your own feeders:

— Be patient. It may take birds several days, even weeks, to find a feeder.
— If you leave food sitting out, even if it’s not in a feeder, house finches will find it. Although wild birds are endearing when hopping on patio furniture, they do make a mess.
— Visit your local Wild Birds Unlimited store. The employees are friendly, knowledgable and happy to share information. Pick up a bag of WBU’s “No Mess Seed Blend” of nuts and seeds already shelled.
— Add a birdbath or fountain. They’ll drink from it, splash around in it, and it’ll attract birds that aren’t interested in the feeders. (Not all want seeds or nectar.)
— Expect a bonanza of birds on a rainy day, which also is a great time to install a new feeding station.
— Hang breakable objects so they won’t hit each other if jolted by wings or wind.
— At dusk, bring indoors food that might attract nocturnal varmints like rats and opossums.
— In winter, add suet (from a bird store or garden center) to your feeding station.
— Don’t add food coloring to hummingbird syrup. The red of the feeder is enough to attract them and the dye may even harm them.
— Keep hummingbird feeders clean; mildew and fungus can make birds sick.
— When placing a feeder, don’t forget that whatever is below it will be showered with bird droppings and seed husks.
— Hardware stores sell black S-hooks in the garden department; regular S-hooks (which are cheaper but silver colored) in the hardware section. You’ll also need chain (sold by the foot), flexible wire, and a wire cutter.
— Turn off the lights in the room in which you’re observing wild birds, so it’s harder for them to see you. Regardless, avoid making sudden movements.
— Enrich your experience by identifying the birds that visit your feeders. Obtain a Sibley’s birding guide specific to your region. (No, the Internet and Google aren’t enough.)
— Get a good pair of binoculars (mine are Polaris Optics). They’re a portal to another world, both at feeders and beyond.

Related info on this site:

 

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.