The 12 Elements of a Thoughtful Bird Feeding Station

Second installment in a series

Did you know there really is a science to feeding wild birds in the back yard? The foods provided, the feeders used, the addition of water, the placement of the feeders all figure in to who will show up and use the various elements. It seems complicated, but it can be very easy. In our new book, “The Joy of Bird Feeding,” Jim Carpenter, founder of Wild Birds Unlimited, has put this all into an easy to follow format. Last month, we discussed the 5 steps to bird-feeding mastery. Presented below are the 12 Elements of a Thoughtful Bird Feeding Station. More detail will be presented in the future, and all articles will be available on this webpage (lefthand column) as they are presented here.

The 12 Elements can be divided into five groups:

  • Feeders
  • Water
  • Landing Surfaces
  • Feeder Locations
  • Solving Basic Problems

I consider Feeder Locations the most important element of a feeder station setup. While not listed first by the author, the fun of this hobby is being able to watch the birds come and go from your feeders. Who is there and who is not! Element 10, Thoughtful Feeder Placement, involves selecting a location that you can easily see from inside your home and from outside areas, while incorporating other factors. Considering multiple feeder stations (Element 11) should also be taken into account. Spreading the stations out can help reduce stress amongst the birds, and using multiple feeder types can help draw a wider variety of birds.

In the book, Jim Carpenter considers the types of feeders we can put into our yards to offer a variety of foods in different ways. He breaks the feeders into the following:

  • Foundational Feeders (Element 1)
  • Tray Feeders (Element 2)
  • Fat Feeders (Element 3)
  • Finch Feeders (Element 4)
  • Nectar, Jelly and Fruit Feeders (Element 5)
  • Snacks/specialty/convenience Feeders (Element 6)

In next month’s article, more information will be provided about “feeder free” feeding (see the first article) and Foundational Feeders.

Notice that the title refers to where these feeders are located as a “station.” A bird feeding “station” includes additional elements. After the feeders (6 elements) comes Water (Element 7). Birds must drink and bathe (their clothes—feathers—must be kept clean)! Moving water is best, but static bird baths work fine. Moving water helps birds find the feature. July is water month, and all water features will be on sale. Add a bath to your feeding station this year.

Landing Features (Elements 8 & 9) are important as they give the birds places to perch. Here they can wait their turn for the feeders, preen after taking a bath, or just hang out and sing! Horizontal perches (branches) will be most used by local birds in the South Bay, although a few, such as Downy woodpeckers and Red-breasted nuthatches, will use vertical perches (tree trunks, etc). Providing enough landing spots will help reduce stress at the feeders.

Elements 10 and 11 are discussed above, which brings us to Basic Problem Solving (Element 12). Selecting your feeder(s), placing them where you can see them, and giving the birds plenty of food they like all works well…unless you have critter issues. So when designing your feeding station, think about who might be in the yard that you don’t want at the feeder. In most cases, the solution to keeping them away is basic, involves a one-time investment (most cases), and some adjusting based on your observations as to how well the solution is, or is not, working.

EnJOY your birds. And remember, THE JOY OF BIRD FEEDING is available in the store at $21.99. It’s a great “how to” with over 500 photographs, along with a field guide to 180 backyard birds from across the country.