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Bird feeder in Seattle

Posted by plantslayer 8 (My Page) on
Sun, Nov 28, 10 at 17:28

Hello,

I set up a bird feeder on my balcony in Seattle. It overlooks a very busy and noisy street (15th ave NE, not far south of Shoreline) but I was happy to notice that some chickadees (?) are starting visit more and more often, and I saw some of those really tiny brown birds with the long tail feather on the nearby trees. I was wondering if anyone can offer advice on how to attract more birds, or the same birds more often?

Right now I only see the few birds I get maybe once each day for a short period of just 20 minutes or so. I have an inexpensive clear plastic feeder I got at Fred Meyer, which has a broad conical top, a saucer bottom that holds seed which comes out of three or four openings at the bottom. I used the cheap standard mixed birdseed I found at FM, which was on sale two for one, but I wonder if thistle or some kind of sunflower seed might be better. I'm thinking about a bird bath as well, but I am not sure if they care about that in the winter. I am lucky that there are a lot of small trees and landscaped bushes near the balcony, so hopefully I can get some of the songbirds to nest near our place in the spring/summer, if they start to notice the feeder.

As for the things working against this plan: lots of street noise. Also, I see a good many crows along the street, although I don't think they nest right near my apartment. I sprinkled some seed along the railing to attract birds, and it worked, but crows also came to eat the seed when I did that. I like crows as much as anyone, but I imagine other birds wont hang out where they are. They don't seem to be able or willing to directly use the feeder though.

Thanks for the advice!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sun, Nov 28, 10 at 19:53

We're using Patio Mix on Camano Island and getting lots of action.

Without the layer of spilled seed sitting on the pavement beneath that another mix was producing.

Try a better mix.

The web site of Wild Birds Unlimited chain might have something of interest also.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

I wonder if the 'tiny brown birds' are bush-tits? They are brownish-grey, look a bit 'velvety' and have a fairly long tail. We find them a delight at the feeder, often coming in little flocks through the Fall and Winter and then breaking into their nesting pairs for much of the Spring and Summer.

If they are bush-tits, we find that they really like suet with small seeds (i.e., not peanuts).


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Unfortunately the "cheap" birdseed, which is primarily millet, does not do the best at attracting a range of birds. Look for the 'low waste' type which has a much smaller percentage of millet as part of the mix. And different seed types attract different species of birds - try adding a niger thistle feeder to attract finches, sparrows, juncos and towhees; cracked sunflower seeds to attract larger birds like jays, cardinals and woodpeckers. And everybody seems to like suet feeders!

If you have the ability, hanging pine cones that have been rolled in peanut butter, then birdseed will be a big draw, as will pieces of fruit like orange and apple slices, even strung cranberries. You can decorate a little Christmas tree with these types of bird treats and they will be highly appreciated. Don't forget popcorn garlands, too.

I'm not sure I would be overly concerned about being on a busy street. My old garden in Shoreline was only a block off Highway 99 but was filled with birds in winter. They need cover and perches, so it helps a lot of have some trees and shrubs nearby or even on your balcony. I've never found a birdbath very essential in winter - too easy to freeze and hard to keep clean, especially if crows in the neighborhood. They like to use it to 'wash' and soften stuff they find in garbage or wherever. And there are typically lots of water sources around birds will utilize in winter.

It is also recommended that you put out winter feeders sort of early in the season, so that the birds will mark their placement as they begin their winter feeding rounds. But be patient, they will come......I am convinced that there is some sort of bird communication system that discloses where the best seed and food sources are :-) Sometimes it just takes a few weeks for the word to get out.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 29, 10 at 13:01

Cardinals?

During winter mixed species flocks form and move around together, so where you have one bird spotting a feeder others may be close by. When the one here is allowed to run out there is a short period of inattention soon followed by a return to full traffic volumes.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

When most of the water available is frozen solid, like last week, a bird bath with unfrozen water will attract lots of birds. Either get a heated bird bath or one you can knock the ice out of and refill easily. In our dry summers, birdbaths will attract more birds than seed in my experience.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Hmm, looks like my seed does have a lot of millet in it, although it does have some sunflower seeds and other stuff. I guess I will either buy some pure sunflower or thistle and mix it in, or just set up a second feeder with some other feed. Also, the pinecone thing is a good idea, I remember doing that when I was a little kid. I will consider the suet feeder, although I am kind of concerned about it making a mess on the balcony. I guess that if I take precautions this should not be an issue.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

On the whole, suet feeders generate far less mess than does a regular bird feeder. They tend to hold solid blocks of suet, often embedded with seeds or dried fruit, and the birds hang on the wire mesh covering and just peck away at the block - no muss, no fuss. And there are special thistle feeders. These seeds are tiny and will typically fall out or get knocked out of a regular bird feeder. I wouldn't mix them in with the other seed.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

We have chickadees, bushtits, juncos, house finches, towhees, fox, song and other sparrows coming, we could do without the house sparrows tho... Robins are coming for the berries on the mountain ash, it must be a hard winter for them as they usually don't like the pink berries on my tree. There's steller jays, flickers, pileated and downy woodpeckers and a flicker here occasionally. Haven't seen any pine siskins here this winter it's either hit or miss with them. The gold finches are around but they won't come to our feeders even if we put out thistle seed.
All we feed now is suet and black oil sunflowers seed, we haven't used the mixes for a long time, too much wastage.

Then there are a few birds in the garden that don't come to the feeders like the wrens, some winters around january we get varied thrushes and for the past few winters we've had the anna hummingbirds.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 30, 10 at 13:03

The patio mix is bringing a range of birds here. We also have a suet feeder placed on top of the seed feeder.

Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Chestnut-back Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
Evening Grosbeak
American Goldfinch

were coming this past fall. Since then I've also seen flickers and jays. The Eastern Gray Squirrel has not been a problem, for a time one showed up and was starting to get into the feeder but the dogs flushed a red-tailed hawk elsewhere on the property and then one came back from the spot with a squirrel carcass.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Hmm, well this is great advice, thank you everyone. The problem I have now is the large bags of cheapo bird seed that I now have to use for something! I figure it is best to use black oil sunflower; if I just mix it in with the cheap mix say 50% mix and 50% sunflower, will it attract birds that mainly want the sunflower? Also, if I make my own DIY suet blocks, will using the cheapo seed work OK, or will it still only attract the same birds as it does in the feeder?

Maybe I just need another feeder, so I can put the cheap stuff in it separately...


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 2, 10 at 20:32

If you combine cheap and sunflower seeds and get sunflower seekers they will toss the small seeds aside to get at those, resulting in a layer of uneaten seed (except for what any ground feeders might take) and hulls on anything flat that is beneath the zone of tossing.

Just the thing for attracting and feeding rats.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Use up what you already have, then buy the better stuff. I use strictly black oil sunflower seeds in my feeder, pretty much everyone eats those - towhees, chickadees, finches even.

Suet feeders will attract the crows and they are masterful at getting at the suet. Amazing to watch, but they'll go through your suet in no time. Mine is in a crow cage, from Wild Birds Unlimited. Unfortunately that means the jays and towhees can't get at it anymore either, but I watched a downy woodpecker slide in to get the suet with no problems. For the flickers' sakes I suspend the inner cage just a couple inches from the bottom of the crow cage. The flickers hang upside down on the outer cage and can reach the inner cage. The crows will jump up from the ground to peck at the suet from below, but they don't get much before they get tired and move on.

The suet does make a mess, lots of crumbs and embedded seed falling. I've had to hang a seed catcher underneath to get rid of the rats that were coming for the crumbs. Once I did that the flickers had some trouble getting to the suet but they do seem to have figured it out now. And the crows can't jump up from the ground anymore.

I wouldn't worry about being on a busy street.

And, my birdbaths are used year round, even now.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 3, 10 at 10:37

No crows or mess with ours, but we don't have crows behaving as "yard birds" on the Camano site. I see them only on occasion. Their presence is light enough that ravens are still around.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

For a good price on black oil sunflower seeds, find a farm supply or pet supply store. I'm buying 50 pound bags for $24.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

I finally bought some black oil sunflower seeds, and the feeder gets a lot more business now. So far I seem almost exclusively chickadees, however juncos also show on my balcony to eat seeds on the ground. I read that juncos basically feed on the ground; has anyone ever seen them eat at a feeder? I think scattering seed on the balcony should be safe, I seriously doubt that rats get up on it, though I suppose it is not impossible. We are on the lowest level, but the balcony is still several feet off the ground, and it has low walls on all sides instead of rails.

I put a suet feeder up too, but the birds haven't used it very much yet (I think I saw the same chickadees trying it out, but they stick with the seed feeder). Hopefully some newer species will show up before long and give it a go...


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Constant procession of juncos at the Camano feeder when they have come around. It is too small for the current volume of traffic and falling apart, my friend does not keep it constantly full. So there are times when there is no activity for that reason, and not because the juncos are disinclined to sit on it.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Use cheap bird seed as a green manure cover crop. I think I read that on the soil forum FAQ about how to improve soil.

Over 10 years ago when our kids started raising chickens we stopped feeding wild birds to reduce the chance of diseases & parasites spreading to the chickens especially mites.

The leftover bird seed was used to fill bags to heat in microwave for earaches and sore muscles like the rice bags people make today. I'm sure some was also fed back to the chickens by our kids as they fed them all sorts of treats to tame them for showmanship and we had a a large bucket of bird seed.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

We have an amazing variety of birds at our feeders -- what joy! We have a decorative pole with a sunflower seed feeder hanging from one side and a suet feeder from the other. It is poked into the lawn so when the flickers (we have 5) and other big birds break off suet, the little birds on the grass clean it up. We have one ruby crowned Kinglet as a regular visitor and the other day, there was a snipe. First sighting of a snipe for me.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Well I've seen pretty much nothing but black capped chickadees and Oregon juncos on my feeder for the last couple of weeks, and the juncos don't even eat at the feeder. But just now I saw a huge swarm of tiny birds (bushtits I believe) attack the suet feeder all at once... like 12 birds clinging to it and digging in! They are now just hanging on a nearby tree, digesting I guess. That was pretty amazing, I hope they show up more often. They seem to wander about in large groups and don't hit the same place very often.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Definitely sounds like bushtits.

Don't knock the chickadees and juncos. A), you're on a busy street in an urban area. B), it's winter. Chickadees are fun birds to have around. And I guess juncos don't read the books since I've never seen them hesitate to use the feeder. I suppose you could have it hanging too high for them, I know the towhees will only fly up so far to get to the feeder, about 4ft I think.

It can take a lot longer than you'd think for birds to start using a new feeder.

And don't count the rats out just because you're on a balcony. Roof rats, if around, can all but fly. They are amazing.


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Consider a hummingbird feeder

  • Posted by umsue 8 Seattle (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 23, 10 at 13:56

We have lots of Anna's hummingbirds that stay here all year long -- even in urban areas. They put on a great show at feeders because they are territorial.

It could take a while to attract to a new feeder, but worth it. And the food for the feeder is the cheapest possible. Just 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Bushtits have been coming to the Camano suet now also, think the flock stops by maybe only once per day. The birds look like aphids or ticks when a bunch of them are all on it at once.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

We also have a flock of Bushtits (((swarming))) the suet once or twice a day too. They're also here in the summer, our son had one make one of their hanging nests in a laburnum tree in their front yard a few years back.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 27, 10 at 22:18

I just walk out in the back yard & feed them from my hand.

Al


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Flesh-eating birds?


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

No. Seed-eating birds.

Al


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Mine come to me and light on my upraised finger, cooing little bits of song. Butterflies hover over my bright, golden head come summer, and bunnies frolic at my dainty little feet.

In reality, we've had to scale back to a suet feeder and hummingbird feeder, as we just can't seem to keep the rats away from regular feeders. Just gave away a huge bag of niger seed and several bags of primo seed mixture to an urban friend who doesn't have the countrified rat scenario that we suffer in Woodinville. Grr.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by tapla zone 5b-6a Mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 11, 11 at 18:29

I've been enjoying the birds eating from my hand and off my hat as I walk around the yard for years. Chickadees are the easiest, but if I lean on a tree, the nuthatches will come hop-hop-hopping down the tree to my hat, or run down my arm, or go looking in my pocket for the cache of sunflower seeds they know are there, but they'll never fly directly to you and land ON you, like the chickadees - always above on a tree & then they hop down onto me. The chickadees are so bold they land on me in droves, but are actually usually quite polite. They'll perch on shoulders & arms, waiting to grab a seed, each in their turn, from my hand or hat.

If I put my hand flat against my chin with knuckles up, like a landing pad, and put a single sunflower seed between my lips, the chickadees will land & take the seed from between my lips, like they're giving me a kiss.

I had an idea that I'll work on. I'll fill a beer can with seed and tip it so the chickadees will reach in to grab a seed. It'll look like they're having a beer with their buddy in the back yard, and I'm sure I can come up with a caption when I get around to working on the shot.

Al

Photobucket

Photobucket


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Fantastic, Al.

Josh


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by tapla zone 5b-6a Mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 11, 11 at 23:38

Thanks, Josh. I know you've seen the pics before, but I thought some of the others might like to have the chance to imagine how rewarding it is to be so up close and personal with these little guys.

Al

Photobucket


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

I can't wait to give it a try....


Josh


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 13, 11 at 20:02

Does your wife know you are attracting little chickadees when out in the yard?

No waste type mix over concrete in Island County - rodent heaven - does not appear to be leaving anything for rats. If they are coming to that at night, they are surely getting very little of it - ground birds are on the job until late in the day.

If rats are climbing to the feeder itself, there has been no sign of this. No gnawing or poops, no rats surprised in the feeder.

Eastern gray squirrels becoming a regular feature would change the equation markedly, as always.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Bboy,

Is it more a question of using a no waste type feed or of using a type of feeder that doesn't allow spillage? We had to give up on all but suet and hummer feeders due to our rodent problem. Hate to be such a girl, but spotting a gray little body sporting a long, naked tail helping itself to the bird seed outside our kitchen window isn't the most appetizing of sights.

Squeamishly,

Rain


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

I have a crow's nest in my yard for which I am grateful. They warned me last summer about the bald eagle that had my favorite hen in it's claws, so I was able to save her. I have hummingbird feeders up all winter, but I haven't put up my suet feeder this year. I worry about attracting too many small birds to the back yard. They attract hawks as well as carry disease. I'm trying to think of a place in the front yard for it. I do love the little tits.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Well, Hallerlake:

Not sure I understand. Small breasts jokes aside (such a small, small joke), doesn't any bird potentially carry disease?

Wonderingly,

Rain


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

All birds potentially carry disease. I guess the real issue for me is attracting hawks. I don't do anything to encourage the crows. They were here before me, and they help protect my yard. The small birds encourage the hawks to hang around. A feeder is a smorgasbord to hawks. I set the suet feeder up in the front yard. I do want the bug eating birds to know where I live. I have the kind that has a box within a box as well as a baffle. It limits the starlings, the rats and the squirrels.


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RE: Bird feeder in Seattle

Plantslayer~ How did you ever make out? I'm just reading this about 3 years after you first posted it. Got any photos to share? I'm just curious for any updates. I've got a heated birdbath on our deck for the winter and sometimes I see a squirrel in addition to the birds using it. :)

Tapla~ Those are some pretty impressive photos you've shared here! I loved seeing them and I've got to try feeding the chickadees by hand myself!!


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