Bird Feeder Placement & Maintenance
So you've decided to start feeding the birds and want to know where to place your feeder for maximum exposure and enjoyment. Did you read my article on the different types of feeders? You can find it here.
You can really place your feeder anywhere you want, but I'd recommend placing it in a spot that you can see from a window in your home and in a location where it is easy for you to keep filled, especially if you have a lot of snow in the winter. There is no way you are going to keep that feeder filled if you have to walk a mile in knee deep snow.
If you are using a hanging feeder of some kind, whether it be a platform feeder, hopper feeder or a tube feeder, hanging it from a tree is probably the simplest solution and is very much preferred by the birds. The birds can perch up on the tree branches and then fly down and take turns at the feeder and feel safe from predators while under cover of the tree branches.
The one disadvantage to hanging the feeder in a tree is that it can make it easily accessible to squirrels which can quickly empty a feeder in no time. If that becomes a problem, you can either switch to a squirrel proof feeder or switch to safflower seed which squirrels don't like.
Another solution would be to hang the feeder from a pole or Sheppard's hook, away from a tree and use a baffle on the pole to prevent the squirrels from climbing up the pole. Squirrels can jump six feet or more, so place the pole about 8' away from a tree or shrub. The birds can still fly over if they need quick cover from a predator, but the squirrels won't be able to jump and land on the feeder.
Another way to attract birds faster to your feeders, is to place them a few feet from a birdbath. This can also increase activity at the birdbath. It's natural for birds to want a drink or clean themselves before or after eating, so it's a good way to increase bird activity in your yard.
Avoid placing bird feeders too close to windows as the birds will likely fly into the windows by mistake, hurting or even killing themselves.
If you have cats in the area make sure the feeder is at least four feet up off the ground. If you are using a ground feeder, make sure it's completely out in the open so that the birds can see any predator coming.
Once you have found the perfect spots for your feeders you will want to keep them cleaned to help prevent disease from spreading among the bird population. I recommend brushing them out at least once a month, more often if you've had a lot of wet weather and the seed has gotten wet. Then twice a season, disinfect them with a solution of nine parts water and one part bleach. Let them soak for at least 20 minutes and then allow them to dry thoroughly. This is when having more than one feeder comes in handy; you can still have one out while one is being cleaned.
You can pretty much hang a hummingbird feeder anywhere, but I've had great success when it is near a garden or even hanging in a flower pot. They have small ones that hang on tiny little hooks made especially for hanging planters. Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors like red, which is why hanging one near a garden helps. Also, hanging a hummingbird feeder in the shade will keep the nectar fresher longer, especially in extremely hot weather.
Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned at least weekly, twice a week if the weather has been in the 90s or higher. Hummingbirds do not like the taste or smell of soap, so avoid using it to clean your feeders. Instead, empty the feeder of any remaining nectar and fill it with hot water and allow it to soak for a few minutes to soften up any dirt. Then empty the water and replace it with about a cup of white distilled vinegar and a handful of sand. Swish the sand around in the feeder to allow the sand to scrub the sides. An old toothbrush or little wire brushes sold in hardware stores can get into any cracks and crevices.
If you have any mold or mildew that is still remaining, empty the feeder of the sand and vinegar, rinse and then add a capful of bleach to the feeder and fill it with hot water and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes or until the stains have disappeared. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before refilling.
Suet feeders are best hung in deciduous trees as many of the suet eating birds are already in the tree, so it's easy for them to find it. Suet feeders are very easy to clean as they require very little effort to do so, but it should still be done. Depending on what kind of feeder you are using, you can usually brush any dirt off with a stiff wire brush and then soak in a bleach solution to disinfect. Again, allow to dry thoroughly before refilling with suet.
Peanut feeders can be hung in the same manner as a regular seed bird feeder. They should be brushed out once every few months, especially if you are using shelled nuts. The birds have trouble getting to the center of tube feeders so the remaining nuts tend to matte down, especially if you've had a lot of wet weather. You may need to use a long utensil to get them out, but if you clean them often, you shouldn't have problems getting the nut residue out. Again, disinfect a couple times of year with a nine part water and one part bleach solution.
Fruit and jelly feeders are best hung in the open so they are easily seen by the birds, but protected from the sun to slow spoilage. So hanging them in the shade of a tree is ideal. They should be cleaned daily, especially if you are using the cup for jelly. To avoid wasting jelly, use very little until you start getting a lot of activity at the feeder. These are pretty easy to clean, just remove the cup and wash with a little soapy water.
Don't forget to check out the page on what kind of bird seed to use in your new feeder here.