Bird feeder lessons

Late Spring in North Wales and the adult birds are vying for food; some are already feeding chicks, most are building up their own reserves; all know their place in the pecking order. What has become very noticable is that birds will tolerate each other in their quest for food.

When I set up the feeding station back in April it quickly became apparent that the small songbirds didn’t stand much of a chance. I wired together two hanging basket frames to make what I hoped would be a sufficient barrier to the corvids. Seeing great chunks taken from the hanging food I realised the plan wasn’t working and I wanted to see how they were getting to it.
My husband set up our Trail Camera to catch the culprits in the act. The stills from the video images are no way perfect but I wanted to capture their determination.

A local bird watcher and recorder who is often about, camera at the ready, told my husband that a jackdaw family had set up home just down the road from us. Being strong and very wily they soon worked out how to get at the hanging coconut filled with suet and berries. But for sheer intelligence and acrobatic skill the magpies took the prize every time.

Another strategy was needed to help the smaller birds. I decided to construct a larger purpose-built ‘cage’.
A square of wood with holes drilled at fairly regular intervals formed the base. I painted it with acrylic paint then constructed a ‘cage’ from two gauges of garden wire.
My plan was taking shape. I even made a ‘door’ at the top so that feeders could be removed for topping up.

The jackdaws seemed to know they were beaten from the start.

The magpies watched and considered. They learned that by gripping with one claw on the base and another on the wire it was possible to get their head – and very long, strong beak – through the gaps in the wires. By jabbing the feed they were able to get quite big chunks of the suet.

The main problem though was that their sheer presence was keeping the smaller birds away.

More successful at using the feeder, the woodpecker worked out how to get through the gaps, and even to exit through the larger spaces at the bottom.

Always assured of having first feed, the woodpecker tolerated the great tits and the coal tits that waited on the sidelines.
A quick glance in their direction was enough to ward off any that attempted to enter the cage while it was feeding.

The songbirds were very content to share the enclosed space with others.
Sometimes there were three different species in the feeder cage at the same time. I saw tits on the suet cage while a chaffinch pecked away from below.

The funniest moment was when the feeder was empty and the woodpecker arrived expecting a meal. It never went inside the cage but looked around as if expecting to see where the feed had disappeared to. Once assured that there was nothing for it the woodpecker never returned.

Next problem: how to tweak the design so that small birds and the woodpecker can access the feed but the magpies cannot.

Solution: add chicken wire around the central section on three sides; this will leave the larger openings at base level and keep the larger gaps on one side.

So far the tits, chaffinches, and sparrows have shown interest but not the woodpecker. I remain hopeful!

Feel I need to add that I have nothing against corvids. They do a tremendous and important job clearing and cleaning spaces of carrion. The problem is that they tend to take over the feeder and leave hardly anything for the others! For their benefit I’ve put up another feeding station that is totally accessible so they don’t feel left out. 😉

Hope you’ve enjoyed the antics in my garden. Please like, share, and comment if you have and let me know what you’re favourite garden visitors are.
Thank you for reading.

Stay well. Stay safe. Stay close to home and enjoy the wildlife if you can.