Do you love birdwatching but lack a place to put up a feeder?
Maybe you love watching birds but you don’t have a big backyard.
Maybe you live in a condo or an apartment. Or maybe you have a big backyard but you are constantly doing battle with squirrels, rats, mice, bees, and ants, and need to put your bird feeder somewhere pest-free.
A great option for all of these situations is feeding birds from a window feeder.
You can attract all kinds of birds with a window feeder (although you may not be able to attract certain kinds of birds at the same time). You can use a window feeder year-round. Window feeders bring birds up close, and they can be endlessly entertaining for pets.
In this article, we will tell you how to choose the kind of window feeder you need to attract the birds you want to watch. We will tell you how to install it.
Then we will cover the important topic of bird safety, how to keep birds from flying into your windows and seriously injuring themselves.
We will tell you how to keep your window feeder clean and attractive, and how to make it squirrel-proof. Then we will have a roundup of bird feeder management tips and a few notes on how your pets—even your cat—can enjoy watching birds at your window feeder with you.
Consider What Kind of Bird You Want to Attract to Your Window Feeder
All kinds of birds enjoy window feeders.
But bigger birds need bigger window feeders.
If you want to attract mourning doves, bluejays, cardinals, and orioles, you may need a larger window feeder.
If you are seeking to attract chickadees, sparrows, and tufted titmice, then a smaller window feeder may be OK.
In addition to different sizes of window feeders, there are different types of window feeders.
Seed feeders dispense seeds from the bottom of a sealed cylinder. Popular birds that feed on seeds include goldfinches, juncos, towhees, grosbeaks, and chickadees.
Other birds eat bugs, worms, and larger seeds. They need a platform feeder.
White-breasted nuthatches and blue jays like large seeds, like peanuts.
Bluebirds like eating mealworms. Robins like beetles and worms. Cardinals, creepers, wrens, kinglets, woodpeckers, and nuthatches all enjoy suet.
And there are birds that specialize, such as the hummingbirds who seek nectar and the orioles that like fruit.
You aren’t going to be able to attract every kind of bird to the same feeder, so try two! There are tray feeders with a divider that allow you to offer two kinds of seed or two kinds of animal protein.
Choose a Window Feeder That Matches the Birds You Want to Attract
Most window birdwatchers feed their birds with a suction cup feeder. These feeders attach to the glass pane of your window with suction cups.
The secret of success with suction cup feeders is making sure that they properly adhere to your window when you are putting them up.
If you do, they will hold the weight of the seed they contain and the birds that visit them easily.
Windowsill feeders (also known as solarium feeders) project a platform over your windowsill.
You place the feeder in your window, and close your window over one end to hold it in place.
Usually, there are adjustable side pieces that extend to the sides of your windowsill, creating a safe space for birds to take off and land.
The downside of windowsill feeders is the same problem you can have with window air conditioning units: they can leak air.
They aren’t ideal for summer use in hot climates or winter use in cold climates.
Also, you may not be able to use a windowsill feeder if you have a home security system. And, if you don’t have a home security system, you may be concerned that a windowsill bird feeder would make entry into your home by a burglar easier.
And, of course, you can use a windowsill feeder if your window doesn’t open at the bottom. You can’t use windowsill feeders with picture windows, or with windows that open to the side.
How to Attach Your Window Bird Feeder to Your Window
It is very easy to install a platform feeder in a window.
- Open your window.
- Place the feeder and side panels on the outdoor windowsill.
- Close your window.
Attaching a window bird feeder with suction cups is a little more complicated, but still not a major challenge.
The most important consideration in putting up suction cup feeders is this:
Start with clean windows!
If there is dirt, debris, grease, grime, dust, or soot on your window, the suction cups won’t stick as tight as they need to be. Wipe the window with a glass cleaner.
Then rinse off the cleaner and allow the window to dry. Don’t try to install a suction cup window feeder before you have completed this step.
The next step is to make sure that the suction cups themselves are free of dirt and debris. If necessary, wash each suction cup in warm soapy water, rinse off the soap, and dry with a lint-free cloth.
Install your suction cup window feeder on warm, dry glass.
If you are putting up a suction cup window feeder during the winter, wait until the sun has warmed the glass of your window. Better yet, warm your window with a blow dryer.
Rub the inside of each suction cup with a few drops (no more than a quarter teaspoon, or about a milliliter) of olive oil, vegetable oil, or mineral oil (as long as it is not a dark oil).
Don’t use so much oil that it gathers in the bottom of the suction cup. A tiny dab of Vaseline works, too.
The usual recommendation is to put some water inside the cup. Use oil, not water. Over time, water will evaporate, but oil will not.
Then apply the suction cups to the glass, and you are ready to go!
You will need to repeat this process every time you take the feeder down to clean and refill it, preferably about once a week.
Every time you place your suction cup window feeder on the window glass, “burp” the suction cups so they have a good seal.
To burp the suction cup, just press down on the nub in the middle of the cup to expel any air that may have seeped inside.
Will Birds Collide with My Window If I Put Up a Window Feeder?
Fatal collisions of fast-flying birds and glass windows are shockingly common.
Scientists at Augustana College in Illinois and the Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York found that the average annual number of bird deaths for buildings with glass windows is three!
It’s only natural to wonder whether putting a feeder in your window would increase the number of bird collisions.
But the surprising answer is “No.”
In fact, research shows that window feeders reduce the risk of accidental flights into the hard glass.
If you position your window feeder property (more about that in a later section) and you take other steps to protect your birds, a window feeder actually lowers the chances that a bird will die by striking the glass.
Here are the findings of the ornithologists, scientists who study birds:
- Birds are most likely to hit windows that are 15 to 30 feet (5 to 10 meters) away from glass windows. Birds can build up enough speed over 15 to 30 feet for a fatal crash.
- Birds are unlikely to be injured on their approach to a feeder that is 3 feet (1 meter) or less from a glass window. They will be “putting on the brakes” as they approach the feeder. Even if they misinterpret something they see in the window, they will not hit the glass hard.
Putting up your window feeder on the glass gives you the best view of the visiting birds. It also keeps them safer.
If you do have a problem with window strikes next to your window bird feeder, you can put up decals to discourage the birds.
You will still have a view of the birds at your feeder.
Birds Need Clean Feeders
One of the things that keep birds coming back to your window feeders is keeping your feeders clean.
If you have a platform feeder, just take it out of the window, wipe off spoiled food and droppings, wash the tray in warm, soapy water, rinse, dry, refill, and put it back in your window again.
For a tube feeder, it can be enough to clean the feeding platform once a week.
If the seed or nectar inside the feeder has begun to go bad, cleaning, drying, and refilling are what you need to do.
For both kinds of feeders, complete sanitization with soap and water, then diluted bleach, and rinsing and drying before refilling to keep the feeder clean, hygienic, and attractive to birds.
Tips for Attracting More Birds to Your Window Feeder
Here is a rundown of things you can do to attract more birds to your window feeder.
Add a Water Feature
Birds need water for drinking and bathing. Situating a bird bath in your yard or courtyard will attract birds to your property.
They will find your window feeder after they get their drink and take their bath.
Any kind of moving water features, such as a fountain or a waterfall, is especially attractive to birds.
If you don’t have money in your budget for a fancy water feature, something as simple as a dripping faucet or a water wiggler will bring birds to your window.
Just be sure to place the bird bath far enough from your window feeder that birds don’t get seed, suet, or droppings in their water.
Start with the Foods Most Birds Like
Black sunflower seeds are a favorite of many backyard songbirds.
Filling your window feeder with black sunflower seeds is a good way to get a variety of birds to your feeder quickly.
It helps to leave a little sunflower seed on the ground beneath your window feeder to draw attention to your new feeding station.
Once you have birds at your feeder, you can add other kinds of seeds that birds like.
But make sure you are adding variety, not switching seed.
You want birds that are used to black sunflower seeds to continue to come to your feeder, as well as birds that may prefer other kinds of seed.
Similarly, you can put out suet or mealworms or peanuts on your platform feeder, and add variety as more birds find it.
Try to become the place birds can count on getting a certain kind of food to keep birds coming to your feeder.
Try to Make Sure Your Feeder Is Squirrel-Proof
Birds don’t like to compete with squirrels for their food. And squirrels have an amazing ability to jump up to bird feeders.
To make your feeder squirrel-proof, you will need to hang it at least five feet (160 cm) above the ground.
You also need to hang your feeder away from tree branches and deck railings.
Choose a Window That Is Close to Natural Shelter
Shrubs, rose bushes, and trees offer birds shelter from predators.
Often, you will see a bird come to your feeder to get some seed, and then fly off into a secluded location to eat it.
Placing your bird feeder where natural shelter is nearby, but not so close that squirrels can use it as a launching pad, will attract birds to your window.
Evergreens are ideal, since they provide year-round protection. An ideal distance from your window to shelter for your birds is 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters).
Your Pets Can Become Bird Watchers Too
Indoor cats and dogs don’t always have a lot to do.
Watching birds through the window can keep them occupied, but the window will keep the birds safe.
Don’t let your cat or dog sit at the window to watch the birds until your feeder is a well-known fixture for the neighborhood birds.
But after birds have been coming to the feeder for a couple of months, they won’t mind the presence of the quiet, well-manned dog or cat on the other side of the window.
Don’t Worry If It Takes a While for Birds to Start Coming to Your Window
Some kinds of birds are bold about claiming new food sources. Chickadees, for example, will be among the first birds to check out a new feeder.
Other kinds of birds will want to make sure the feeder is safe before they risk feeding in your window.
Cardinals and nuthatches are cautious. They may fly away if they see you coming up to the window to watch them. You can put up a one-way mirror decal so you can watch them and they won’t see you.
Sometimes, birds don’t come to a window feeder because they are already in the habit of visiting other feeders.
Take other feeders down temporarily to encourage birds to become a regular part of your home.
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