Hooded oriole (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Bird Puzzle Feeder: A New Way to Enjoy Your Garden

My bird puzzle feeder is a fun and novel way to observe backyard birds. When given a challenge, birds show persistence, determination, and how clever they are---or not, LOL. In my new Bird Puzzle Feeder video, you’ll enjoy nine different species, from darling titmice to badass orioles. For a list of simple, inexpensive DIY items, see below.

Birds as performance art

During my first 25 years of gardening in rural Southern California, other than noticing repetitive squawks like a rusty hinge, I was oblivious to birds. The closest I came was collecting ornamental bird houses and turning bird baths into succulent planters.

Hanging prism bird feeders (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Finches snarf seed from hanging pots (by Alicia Iraclides).

Then we had a houseguest—my MIL—whose sole interest in the garden was its birds. I set up a feeder and quickly became captivated...then disappointed that commercial feeders don't do justice to flying jewels. So I made my own. See some of them in my earlier YouTube video: Create Beautiful Feeders for Backyard Birds (5:01).

Scrub jay at puzzle feeder (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Determined to get some suet cake, this scrub jay did a beak-stand. 

Why a bird puzzle feeder?

During Covid, I wondered: What if birds did more than munch? How could I better savor and showcase their intelligence and quirkiness? As a challenge, I put food at the bottom of a wire basket. They could see enticing tidbits but not get to them---not directly. It took some longer than others, but all figured it out. (Well, except for one. Let's just say California towhees are not the brightest.)

Titmouse with peanut (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Titmice' large eyes make them adorable. They go nuts (forgive the pun) over raw peanuts. 

DIY supplies

I found the heavy-gauge, black wire basket at a thrift store and used floral wire to make gaps smaller. Find a similar "farmhouse egg basket" on Amazon. If you make your own, be sure it has no sharp points (use "flush cutters" for smooth, flat, clean cuts). I hung the feeder from a nail in the eaves with a chain of S-hooks. Green floral clay or museum putty secures interior food holders.
Orioles like grape jelly. All others: raw shelled peanuts, sunflower seeds or a suet cake rodents don't like.

Product links are affiliate.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions! ~ Debra 

Related info on this site

Oriole feeding fledgling (Hooded)

See Baby Birds (Fledglings) at Feeders

Fledglings are toddlers of the bird world: cute, endearing and fun to watch. They’re awkward, curious, beg loudly, and don’t let their parents out of their sight. You’ll see nine different types of western birds shortly after they’ve left the nest. Look for these flying jewels in your own backyard. I show parents and offspring at unconventional feeders

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Debra Lee Baldwin garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

See Debra’s Idea-Filled Garden

Welcome to my site’s “Debra’s Garden” page. This is where you’ll find photos of plants in my half-acre succulent garden, as shown in my recently released, 15-min. video:” See My Idea-Filled Succulent Spring Garden.” The video came about as a result of my garden looking amazingly beautiful after a rainy April here

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  1. Susan Morse on January 5, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    You KNOW I love succulents and many other things that grow. But THIS video had me mesmerized. Russ even peeked over my shoulder and watched too. You have such a delightful mixture of avian friends that eagerly accept your gracious hospitality. This bird brain stimulating exercise is teaching them useful skills. I can see that table manners, sharing and passing food is not high on any feathered visitors “To Do” list.
    Thank you, Debra, for creating this fascinating video. Cheep 🐥 Cheep ❣️

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 5, 2021 at 7:28 pm

      What a delightful comment from a treasured friend! It was a perfect stay-at-home project. I distilled hours and hours of footage down to 12 minutes. (Fortunately I could look at unedited video on fast-forward. Except for titmice. I had to watch them on real time because they’re already on fast-forward.) Speaking of titmice, I have some cool footage of fledglings. Hopefully, with that of other juveniles who came to the feeders in spring, I can make a baby-bird video!

  2. Diane Reagan on January 5, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I really enjoyed (entertained) your video on the bird puzzle feeder. Usually I’m watching squirrels try to get the yummies. Do you have problems with the squirrels attempting to steal the food?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 6, 2021 at 9:07 am

      Thank you, Diane! No, thank goodness, we have only ground squirrels in this area. Critters in general can’t get to the feeders, which hang from the eaves above a second-story deck. Also I bring everything in at night.

  3. Celeste Yakawonis on January 6, 2021 at 5:02 am

    I have a different thought about this. I live in Maine and it is cold now. Why have a puzzle feeder and make the birds use more energy-just let the birds eat.
    The feeder is beautiful and maybe summer would be a good thing.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on January 6, 2021 at 9:06 am

      Hi Celeste — Oh, that makes sense! Your birds contend with winter cold, and getting to food can be a matter of life and death. The less energy they expend, the better.
      Stay warm and well, dear one. And give those birds of yours suet! Mine are mad for it, even though they don’t really “need” it.

  4. Nell Rackham on March 18, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    I would really worry about abrading the birds’ feathers by contact with the wire. It might be fun to watch, but probably not so great for the birds. In wildlife rehabilitation facilities, we go to great lengths to make sure birds don’t come into contact with wire mesh.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on March 18, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Nell — I had no idea (obviously). I’ll not do so in future and advise others to avoid feeders that make birds come into contact with wire. The puzzle was a brief experiment.

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