How to Hang a Bird Feeder?

Bird feeders come in a variety of hangers.

Some have wire loops. Others have hooks attached to the feeder at the factory. Still, others come with ropes to use to hang them.

Knowing how to hang a bird feeder safely requires knowing how to use these hangers.

But choosing the right feeder and placing it in the right location requires knowing a little about the birds you want to feed, too.

Why Use a Bird Feeder?

If you are new to bird watching, you may be wondering why anyone would use a bird feeder?

Why not just scatter bird seed or suet on the ground?

Bird feeders have the advantage of being off the ground.

Squirrels, mice, rats, raccoons, ants, cockroaches, and other animals and insects will have to work just a little harder to steal the food you intend for birds.

Hanging bird feeders have several other features that birds and bird watchers will enjoy:

  • Protection from predators and competitors. Hanging a bird feeder doesn’t just protect the food you put out for birds. It also protects visiting birds from their predators. There are bird feeders built to block all but the most creative mice and squirrels. There are also bird feeders with spring-loaded platforms that make sure that big birds don’t get all the seed you intend for smaller birds.
  • Convenient location. Bird feeders can be hung from trees. Hanging a bird feeder from a tree gives birds that are busy feeding protection from raptors like owls and hawks that might attack them from above. There are bird feeders you can hang from arbors, arches, gutters, and poles, wherever it is easy to refill and clean them.
  • Ready-to-go design. Everything you need to hang your bird feeder usually comes in a kit. You can get your feeder up almost instantly.

An Easy Checklist for Hanging Your Bird Feeder

The first thing you need to do before putting up your bird feeder is to make sure it can be hung without any additional accessories.

If you want your bird feeder to hang low from a high limb, you may need a length of cord or twine or even fishing line (to discourage squirrels and mice) to hang it at the level you want.

Sometimes the hook that comes with your bird feeder isn’t the fight size.

You may need to buy an S-hook at your home improvement or birding supply store. S hooks are available in different lengths, thicknesses, and curvatures.

Hooks that have strongly curved, deep ends will hold your feeder more securely as it blows in the wind.

The cord you use to mount your feeder can be chain, rope, polyethylene plastic, or jute twine. It should not be anything springy or elastic.

You don’t want a lot of movement when birds use the feeder.

You can knot the cord several times to make sure it doesn’t come off the hanging hook above or the feeder below.

You want the hanging cord to be securely anchored and you do not want it to break.

Also when you are hanging a bird feeder:

  • Choose a location protected from the strongest winds. This minimizes swinging that can spill seed and cause birds to fly away.
  • Keep bird feeders out of busy traffic areas such as paths and sidewalks. You don’t want them tipped or bumped.
  • Hang bird feeders next to brush or rose bushes so songbirds can find cover when they are in danger.
  • Choose a location that is shady but not too shady. You want to give your visiting songbirds some cover so they won’t be seen by predators flying above them But you don’t want to hang your bird feeder — especially not your hummingbird feeder — in a place that is so shady that birds won’t see it.
  • Double-check the sturdiness of the branch, pole, gutter, or hook where you intend to hand your bird feeder. Test it so you are sure it will support your bird feeder even when it is filled with seed.
  • Are squirrels a problem? Then get a bird feeder with a squirrel baffle (or by a squirrel baffle at your birding supply store. Squirrel baffles also keep mice out of your bird feeder. Or place your bird feeder on a pole at least six feet (two meters) above the surface of the ground and at least 10 to 15 feet (three to five meters) away from trees. Squirrels can make very long leaps to get to the food.
  • There are two ways to position bird feeders so birds coming in for a landing don’t crash into windows. Position your bird feeder on your window or no more than three feet in front of it. Birds will see the feeder and miss your window. Or place your bird feeder at least 10 to 15 feet (three to five meters) away from any window so they don’t accidentally crash into the glass.
  • Every time you refill your feeder, check the cord used to hang to make sure it is secure.
  • Takedown bird feeders when you have storm warnings or when winds are high. You don’t want your feeder to become a projectile in your yard.

What Do You Do When Your Bird Feeder Falls?

Even if you exercised appropriate care when putting up your bird feeder, accidents can happen.

When your bird feeder fails, inspect it for loose fittings and cracks. Screw the assembly back together if necessary. Throw the feeder away if it is cracked.

Bird seed that falls to the ground can become damp or contaminated.

It’s OK to put salvaged bird seed on a platform feeder, but you shouldn’t put it back into an enclosed container because it can grow mold.

It’s better to waste some bird seed than to get your birds sick with a fungal infection.

Different Kinds of Feeders for Different Kinds of Birds

It’s important to consider whether you want to hang a feeder at all.

As you no doubt know, not all birds eat the same foods. Some birds prefer seeds, typically sunflower seeds.

Some birds prefer suet, the hard fat around the loins and kidneys of beef, mutton, and pork. And some birds, like hummingbirds, require liquid nourishment.

You can determine the kind of bird feeder you need — or don’t — by the kinds of birds you want to attract.

Hanging feeders attract shy birds. Sunflower seed is a food a very large variety of birds enjoy.

Hanging sunflower-only seed feeders are great for attracting

  • Black-capped chickadees
  • Blue jays
  • Carolina chickadees
  • Common flickers
  • Downy woodpeckers
  • Evening gros-beaks
  • Hairy woodpeckers
  • House finches
  • Pine siskins
  • Purple finches
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Red-breasted nuthatches
  • Red-headed woodpecker
  • Scrub jays
  • Starlings
  • Tufted titmic
  • White-breasted nuthatches

Ground feeders attract larger birds you will never see with hanging feeders.

Mixed-seed ground feeders (both sunflower seeds and cracked corn) attract:

  • American tree sparrows
  • Blue-capped chickadees
  • Blue jays
  • Brown-headed cowbirds
  • Cardinals
  • Common-grackles
  • Dark-eyed juncos
  • Mourning doves
  • Northern bobwhite
  • Pigeons
  • Red-winged blackbirds
  • Ring-necked pheasants
  • Rufous-sided towhees
  • Song sparrows
  • Scrub jays
  • Song sparrows
  • Tufted titmice
  • White-crowned sparrows
  • White-throated sparrows

Suet feeders only require a cord to hang the hard fat where birds can find it, preferably at a height where it can’t be reached by other animals.

Birds attracted to this high-energy food include:

  • Black-capped chickadees
  • Carolina chickadees
  • Downy woodpeckers
  • Hairy woodpeckers
  • Mockingbirds
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Red-breasted nuthatches
  • Red-headed woodpeckers
  • Starlings
  • Tufted titmice
  • White-breasted nuthatches

“Water feeders” or bird baths are especially attractive to:

  • Orioles
  • Robins
  • Thrushes
  • Vireos
  • Warblers

Sugar-water feeders attract:

  • Hummingbirds

What do you need to consider when you are buying a hanging (sunflower) seed feeder?

Probably the most important thing to remember when you are buying a hanging seed feeder is to make sure it’s made of plastic, not glass.

You don’t want shards of glass on your lawn should the feeder crash down in the wind.

Larger bird seed feeders are better than smaller bird seed feeders.

That way you don’t have to fill them as often. They should be easy to take apart so you can clean them every time you refill them.

Bird seed feeders should protect the seed inside from rain and snow.

They should have metal perches. Spring-loaded perches that snap closed if a heavier animal like a squirrel lands on them are a good investment.

Things to consider: Window feeders bring birds up close for easy viewing. Hopper-type house feeders have a rustic look that adds visual interest to your long.

What do you need to consider when you are setting up a ground feeder?

It’s really not necessary to buy anything at all for a ground seed. Just throw out seed in an 8-foot (250 cm) circle.

Put out mixed bird seed near brush or cover so smaller birds can take shelter if predators appear.

Placing your ground feeder under a tree, but not in deep shade, gives birds additional protection from predators flying overhead.

It’s always possible to hang a platform feeder just a few feet (up to about a meter) above the ground for the same effect as throwing seed on the ground.

Hanging open tray feeders attract a huge variety of birds (although not pheasants or turkeys, which feed on the ground).

They aren’t very secure, and they are prone to tipping over, but birdseed isn’t very expensive.

What about hanging suet?

The only concern about hanging suet is making sure it’s anchored so it doesn’t fall down.

Suet is winter food. Visiting birds will take care of it before it spoils.

And what do you need to consider when you are buying a hummingbird feeder?

You will enjoy your hummingbird feeder a lot more if you get a model with bee guards.

These feeders have tiny holes through which hummingbirds stick their tongues to drink nectar.

Bees can’t reach the nectar.

It’s also helpful to consider:

  • Start small. Don’t put out more sugar-water than your hummingbirds can drink. If you start seeing more hummingbirds and need to fill the feeder too often, then you can buy a second feeder or a bigger model.
  • Choose feeders that are easy to clean. Regular, thorough cleaning keeps hummingbirds healthier.
  • Buy plastic not ceramic. You can’t see water levels in ceramic hummingbird feeders. You can’t see mold buildup, either.
  • Go for function over form. Don’t buy a hummingbird feeder just because it is pretty. Some of the most visually attractive feeders are impossible to clean. They may even be difficult for hummingbirds to use.
  • Get a hummingbird feeder with perches. Hummingbirds don’t need perches, but they make it easier for you to see and enjoy your visiting hummingbirds.
  • Ask your neighbors which hummingbird feeders have worked well for them. And “ask” your hummingbirds. Pay attention to the models they prefer.

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