A Platform Feeder will Draw the Largest Variety of Birds
The most popular feeder by far for the greatest variety of birds has been our platform feeder where squirrels and cats have no access. However, it can be the messiest feeder unless you get one with a grill to reduce the amount of seeds flicked to the ground. Buy seeds without shells if you want less residue on your lawn and wish to avoid sprouting weeds. Dump only as many seeds as the birds will eat in a few days and be certain the tray has drainage holes to reduce the chances of seed rotting.
Our platform feeder came with the option of using a hanger or a 1 ft. long pole. We wanted it out of the reach of cats and squirrels and couldn't find a cheap metal pole at Lowes, so my husband drilled a 1" diameter hole at the top of an 8 ft. long treated 4" x 4" wood post where we attached the 1 ft. long pole. He used a posthole digger to make a 2 ½ - 3 ft. deep hole to stabilize the post. We chose a sunny spot for good lighting. The post is about 10 ft. from a window for good viewing and about 6 ft. away from tree branches to prevent squirrels from attempting to jump on it. Sticks and branches wrapped along the edges of the tray with thin wire could provide a more natural look for photos.
I have seen as many as a dozen finches and sparrows on the platform feeder at once, but when a jay or northern flicker decides to land, the little birds quickly disperse in unison to the nearby branches to wait for the next opening. Unfortunately, the poop beneath the perching branches and the discarded seeds and shells under the feeder collect after a time. Our birds and squirrels quickly eat the dropped seeds, but there's still some mess that needs to be raked up occasionally to help prevent unwanted rodents (i.e. - skunks or rats) from being drawn into the yard. Placing squares of dense wire mesh to catch everything at the pole's base can make clean up easier.
Our squirrels were very adept at scrambling up the post, then flipping themselves onto the platform, so we attached a baffle. You can find attractive squirrel baffles for $17 to $55 or so (check out backyardchipper.com for baffles - they have a $25.49 baffle specifically designed for a 4" x 4" post). To save a few dollars we just drilled a 1" diameter hole in the bottom of a $6, 12-quart narrow trash can from Wal-Mart. It slipped nicely onto the post.
The squirrels climbed the post numerous times, but were always stumped by the plastic cylinder. Squirrels occasionally stretch themselves as far as they dare onto the narrow branches of our crabapple tree and stare at the platform to see if it's worth a leap, but they have decided it's just too far. I provide them with a few treats on the ground like nuts and apple cores, which probably keep them from trying too hard to reach the feeders.
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