Foam Lake Birding No. 70

No. 70
Feeders, as such, for insect eaters are almost nonexistent and what does exist is very simple in design. Suet can be hung directly on a tree or post requiring only a piece of wire or string; peanuts can be placed directly on the ground or something like deck railing; peanut butter mixtures can be spread directly on a branch. However, to discourage unwanted “guests” some effort has to be made to protect the food set out for the birds.
Suet can be put in small metal cages that can be bought in stores. Once filled with suet, the cage can be hung on a tree or post. Unwanted visitors, such as ravens and cats, cannot steal the suet to eat elsewhere. Yet, birds can still peck at the suet through the grating.
Shelled peanuts should be provided in a metal tube similar to that of a seed feeder. Holes are drilled in the sides large enough for the birds to peck through, but small enough to prevent the peanuts from falling out. These feeders are available in stores. This kind of feeder also discourages squirrels - the bane of bird lovers everywhere. Peanuts, shelled or unshelled, will disappear very quickly. Both Blue Jays and squirrels gather the peanuts and take them away and store them for future use. No matter how many nor how often the peanuts are provided they disappear in minutes. One year a jay kept storing the unshelled peanuts that I had put out, so I would go to its storage site, pick up the peanuts and put them again out the next day. The jay would hide them in exactly the same place as before, and I would recover the peanuts and put them out the next day. This routine continued until the jay disappeared.
The peanut butter mixture can be spread directly onto a branch or the trunk of a tree if the bark is rough enough. If such a tree does not exist in your yard then some sort of man made device is necessary. Luckily, these are easy to make. A block of firewood with rough bark, such as maple or elm, can be hung horizontally and the mixture spread on it as on a branch. A design that I have developed is a 3” diameter and 12’ long block of wood hung by an eye hook screwed into one end. With smooth barked wood such as poplar, I drill shallow holes in the sides (3/4” wide and 1” deep) and fill them with the mixture. The holes should be drilled at a slight downward angle to prevent the food from falling out.
This week’s picture is of a Red Breasted Nuthatch feeding on a feeder of my design just described above. Of the two nuthatches found here, the Red Breasted can be identified quite easily by its distinctive black eye line through a white face. For a more thorough discussion on nuthatches see article No. 32. Over the past several winters we have had a small group of nuthatches roosting in a birdhouse used by Tree Swallows in the summer. Since the food we provide is only a few feet from the bird house, everything is very convenient for them. This winter we have three of them in that same birdhouse in our yard. In all likelihood a few should be in everybody’s yard sooner or later.