Dopers with bird feeders, I have a question.

I have used a cylindrical bird feeder for years. Because of its design, only small birds can feed from it. All the diners are sparrows. I wanted to attract larger birds for a variety. I installed a round feeder with a large tray. The tray will fill from the storage vessel. Well, the sparrows came and, using their beaks, they shoveled the birdseed onto the ground. The storage container was emptied in a few hours and all the seeds were on the ground. What gives? Any thoughts on why the sparrows would do this?

They’re ground-feeding birds. It’s a lot more natural/normal for them to pick seeds off the ground than from an artificial feeder.

You’re attracting small birds because of the food you’re feeding, not the design of the feeder. Larger birds don’t always eat seed. You could try a different kind of feeder, with a different kind of food - suet feeders for woodpeckers, fruit feeders for orioles, mealworm feeders for bluebirds.

I prefer to just provide water in my backyard. I have one family of juncos who have staked out the back patio as their turf, (unsuccessfully) nested in a planter, and chase away the robins, phoebes and house finches. So not a lot of variety around here either :slight_smile:

North Georgia: I use the bag marked for Cardinals (some black sunflower seeds, mostly smaller seeds) and does indeed attract a fair amount of cardinals, plus a woodpecker, thrushes and some smaller birds and the occasional blue jay. None of the birds seem to be intent on scattering the seeds, although a chipmunk makes a mess of things.

I helped my son build a bluebird house which attracted a family of bluebirds this year. We have two feeders - the cylindrical one gets house finches, chickadees and titmouses (titmice?) mostly with the occasional nuthatch or woodpecker. The tray feeder gets cardinals and mourning doves. We used to get a lot of grackles and sparrows but not as many the last few years.

Saw our second-ever indigo bunting last month but it was dead next to our house. Might have flown into the window. :frowning:

We also have a thistle feeder for goldfinches and a trumpet vine which attracts the occasional hummingbird.

I do all of the above - sparrows, cardinals, bluebirds, doves and some others are naturally ground feeders and foragers.They don’t really prefer to eat from the tube feeders unless there is no other option, then they will improvise. :slight_smile: Finches and creepers like thistle feeders and elevated “tube” feeders. Cowbirds, robins and grackles prefer cat food, as far as I can tell (they are definitely omnivores and their natural diet includes lots of bugs, grubs and worms and they’re not big into seeds.)

I had indigo buntings early this year, what pretty birds!

I also have an American kestrel, who ate a few juncos over the winter.

I get plenty of cardinals and bluejays and woodpeckers at my cylindrical feeder, but that’s probably because I use a mix that has seeds plus peanuts and stuff. (We also of course get finches and wrens and chickadees and titmice and all.)

I feed blackoil sunflower seed (50 cent a pound at Tractor Supply) in chalet type feeders. The sparrows do shovel a lot of the seed onto the ground (then start weaving nesting material inside the feeders), but the doves, cardinal, and sparrows are ground feeders so it works out for everybody. Last fall I was finding strange digging and foraging marks where the seeds pile up and compost and kept an eye out early mornings for a few days and caught a turkey vulture on the ground digging and tossing through the pile!
Sharpies attack at the feeder frequently but don’t seem to be very efficient hunters.
I’m a little south for indigo buntings but the painted buntings are singing everywhere this year.

Yep, sparrows do that.

Most sparrows don’t eat safflower seeds. You might try filling your big new feeder with just safflower seed. Don’t mix anything else in with them or the sparrows will empty the whole thing to get to the other seeds.

Huh. I didn’t know sparrows even ate from feeders. We get tons of birds, even as big as blue jays, at our feeders, but I’ve never gotten a sparrow.

We use this feeder which is really squirrel-proof (not raccoon proof, though!) and this one and during the cooler months a suet feeder. Between them we get chickadees, tit mice, dark eyed juncos, assorted woodpeckers, nut hatches, blue jays, cardinals, and gold finches.

I bought one of these, which is primarily designed as a squirrel-proof feeder (and does an excellent job), with a perch rail that allows birds to feed, but closes the feed ports if something heavier gets on it. Part of the design is an adjustable tension for the perch rail, so that heavier birds can feed without closing the feed ports.

Juncos tend to take over our yard as well, although we had a pretty good variety this year, including some nice songbirds.

We’ve had feeders for many years. Two hold thistle which attracts mostly finches of all types is seems. Three larger feeders hold black oil sunflower seeds, a peanut mix, and a mix labeled Woodpecker. We also have two suet holders. The wood peckers do come for their mix (as well as the others), blue jays and cardinals seem to love the sunflower. I wish my wife were here right now, I’d tell you all the rest. My job is to say, “Quick, there’s a pretty one!” and she tells me what it is. :slight_smile:

On the other hand I’ve never really found a feeder that is completely squirrel proof. They are amazingly clever and agile. I’ve even seen them work in teams to defeat the feeder that is supposed to shut down with a squirrels weight on it. One stands as a counter balance to the others. They’ve got to be sharing somehow or taking turns because the one acting as the counterbalance can’t get seeds. They’re actually more entertaining (though not as pretty) to watch.

I’ve got a tube feeder with smaller seed for the chickadees, and chalet feeder with a mix of seeds for whoever, a tube with peanut pellets for the woodpeckers, and suet for woodpeckers and others. Then a mix (including corn) is strewn on the ground for the mourning doves, squirrels* and others (including a fox in the spring who may have been having trouble finding other prey).
*Our feeders are out in a clear area so we are able to use baffles and keep the squirrels from getting to the feeders.

ETA: We tend to see sparrows for limited times as they are on their way through. They will eat on the ground.

Tons of squirrels around here but the easiest solution I’ve found for any type of hanging feeder is to use a simple shepherd’s crook. I’ve yet to get a squirrel in my feeders although they’re often foraging on the ground below.

OldGuy. Sounds like your wife was a birder. Lucky you.

They have yet to defeat the one I linked to above, but they continue to try. But you’re right, they’re clever and persistent. I had one gnaw through a really tough cover on the plastic bin I was storing the seed in. I discovered it before it was able to get the hole large enough to get in. I had a sphere-shaped “squirrel-proof” feeder at one point. Worked for awhile, just long enough for me to buy a second one, and then they figured out how to open the top. I wired it shut. Then they figured out that if jumped on it, seed would shake out of the feed ports and they could reach it with their paws.

I’ve got a standard tray-type feeder with a covered bin on a stake in my yard. I keep it filled with black oil sunflower seed that has been coated in hot pepper oil. This attracts cardinals, chickadees, finches (including the occasional pair of goldfinches), titmice (or titmouses?) and morning doves. A very brave squirrel shows up now and then too. I also have two suet feeders out on trees; these attract various types of woodpeckers, tiny wrens, and crows (who have to work in groups of two or more). I’ve also seen a few cardinals eating from the suet feeders this year.

Sometimes a blue jay will show up and chill on the fence for awhile. I’ve also noticed a larger brown bird skulking in the tall shrubs at the back of the yard; I haven’t been able to get a good enough look at it to make a positive ID though.

They’d get to the feeders up our shepherd’s crook, until we baffled them (the crooks and therefore the squirrels).

I leave plenty of whole peanuts on the ground for the squirrels. Over the winter there were big snowbanks around the feed area and one red squirrel built a system of tunnels inside. He would pop out randomly like whack-a-mole and grab something to eat.

We did too. A raccoon stole it one night, never to be seen again. You wouldn’t believe how much raccoons like black oil sunflower seeds.

harmonicamoon, what are you putting in the feeder? I’ve found that commercial mixes with a lot of millet in them end up mostly wasted, especially if it’s full of the red millet. I know they say “wild bird mix” and “finch mix”, but they aren’t, really. Some of it gets eaten, but most gets shoved out as they look for better food.

I feed a mix of black oil sunflower, safflower, and small white millet that I mix myself. I buy a 40-ish lb bag of BoS, and a 10-ish lb bag each of the other two. I have a large galvanized trash can that I mix it in, doing it in increments (pouring about 1/3 of each bag in and stirring, lather rinse repeat).

It may take a while for other birds to find your feeder, so keep at it, and don’t buy the cheap seed mix. So much gets wasted you aren’t really saving anything.

Also, put out a water source, that will attract birds as much as the feeder will.

We have the cylinder type that shuts if anything too heavy sits on the perches. We have white-wing doves which are too heavy but also too stupid. They sit on the perches and then no one can eat. Every year a new crop of dumb doves gets born and takes all summer to learn that they can only eat our black sunflower seeds if they go on the ground and pick up the spilled ones. And yes, we do know about raccoons and black oil sunflower seeds. They didn’t get away with the feeder but they threw it on the ground a few times before we outsmarted them…so far. But the sparrows in our yard do eat from the feeder, not on the ground. Maybe because the ground is covered with doves?