Make This Pest-Proof Bird Feeder

Want to attract more bird life to your yard in winter? But are you also tired of pesky crows or spastic squirrels chowing down on all your bird food before the desirable wildlife gets it? Here’s an antidote, and it’s easy: a modified suet feeder on bamboo.

Northern Flicker

One of my favorite feeder visitors is the northern flicker, a rosy-cheeked member of the woodpecker family. He often hangs upside down on the feeder to eat.

What you’ll need:

  • Bamboo culm – one dried pole, 10-15 feet long
  • Suet feeder and suet cake – available at nurseries and hardware stores
  • Steel mesh, quarter-inch, 11×6 inches

The suet feeder is a welded-wire box that holds a suet cake, which is a solid block of suet fat embedded with nuts, seeds, grains, etc. I like the simplest feeder, which is about 5 inches square and two inches deep and hinges open on one side. It’s under $10, and the cakes are $2-$3.

I first started hanging a suet feeder in a tree, and the squirrels were all over it. They grubbed out the food in a matter of hours! Then I tried hanging it on bamboo, which kept the squirrels away, but our ever-present crows got into it. Turns out they can eat it just as fast as squirrels.

With a little refinement, however, I found a bird feeding method that seems to really work. It is not bothered

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by squirrels or crows, it attracts a wide variety of smaller birds, and it bounces entertainingly when the birds flock to it. Plus, you can move it around the yard and position it for best bird-watching.

It’s still simply a piece of bamboo with a suet feeder tied onto it. But I’ve added another layer of metal mesh inside the suet feeder’s big, one-inch grid, which wards off the big beaks and makes the food last longer.

Frustrated crow

The crow’s broad beak can’t get through the quarter-inch mesh. He looks a little perturbed, doesn’t he?

I’ve also found that longer bamboo, securely anchored in the soil, is best. Sometimes if a lot of birds are hanging on it, it flexes quite a bit, and you want it to remain quite high above the ground so the neighborhood cats can’t jump and grab birds off of it. You don’t want to create a bloody Wild Kingdom in your garden, do you?

Suet cake, mesh and feeder

Add the inner screen, center, to the suet feeder, then insert a suet cake.

Use a wire snips to cut the inner wire mesh into the shape shown in the photo, then fold it into the feeder to make an inner box. Put the suet cake into that.

Folding the mesh

Fold the mesh over the suet cake before closing the feeder.

Tie the suet feeder about two feet from the skinny end of the bamboo. Plunge the bamboo as deeply into the soil as you can, at least 18 inches. If this gives you trouble, get a hollow piece of pipe bigger than the bamboo diameter, hammer that into the ground, then slip the bamboo into it.

When finished, sit back and watch the birds come and get it.

Little birds feasting

The feeder can serve lunch to a number of smaller birds, while others wait on the pole for their place at the table.

Oh, Deer!

My wife and a bunch of neighbors saw these unwanted visitors parading through our city block yesterday:

Phinney Ridge deer visitors

Yes, dear, those are deer. Blacktail deer, according to a hunter friend from the country.

Which is where these two must have come from, unless my neighbors Craig and Karen put on awfully good Halloween costumes.

We live on a steep street with the houses pretty tightly packed. A downhill neighbor saw these guys in another yard before they ambled through her yard, then the next, then our yard (more on that in a minute), and then went up the street.

At that point, Susie was driving home and saw them in the middle of the street. She ran inside and got the camera. She snapped their pictures in two yards up the block before they calmly navigated the steps out of the yard at the top of the block and headed south.

I sent the pictures to the PhinneyWood blog, which got a lot

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Phinney Ridge DeerToday I inspected my garden, and found one Brussels sprouts plant pulled completely from the bed and cleanly stripped of all its leaves. And a couple of leaves were chewed off a cabbage. That’s it.

I guess there’s so much food in these city yards that our country visitors can just snack a little here and there and have a progressive dinner as they amble through the neighborhoods.

We’re lucky. I have many friends in suburban and rural homes whose yards are stripped clean of flowers, vegetables, and any desirable vegetation from the ground up to the height of a deer’s head. The only way to grow a vegetable garden in deer country is with a big, sturdy fence.

Later yesterday there were further sightings of these two, but as far as I know, no roadkill reported.

I won’t say that I was happy to see this wildlife clearly out of their natural habitat — and definitely in a dangerous environment — but it was a good reminder that we’re never

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too far from nature, in its many forms.

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