About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where do you place finch feeders?

Hi, We recently moved a nyjer feeder that had tons of feeding finches this summer and fall because we realized it was too close to a birdhouse and had discouraged nesters this season. We moved it to a position in our yard, attached to a hangar off a big tree in an open area. Since we moved it, there has been very sporadic feeding. Is there a place where we should NOT have these feeders? Height? Anything? Thanks so much - JE

I’ve found the goldfinches feel more comfortable with the feeder near trees but that isn’t a requirement. I have several feeders hanging from a dogwood and pear tree in the front of the house and a couple on a pole in the open in the back of the house. All the feeders have birds but I fill the front feeders twice as much.

The most important place to hang a feeder is where you can watch it easily.

Goldfinches can be some of the most particular and finicky backyard birds. Their seed has to be fresh, the feeder clean, and they don’t take it well when you move or replace a feeder.

To make sure your Nyjer seed is fresh pinch the seed with your fingernails and see if any oil comes out. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. On these cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week.)

Second, make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. In Michigan where it can be wet the seed may not get a chance to air out and begin to mold. This can be dangerous to the finches and they will avoid your feeder again. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using a WBU Weather Guard.

Third, finches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. Just as you may have been taught it was polite to leave at least a little food on your plate so as not to appear gluttonous, I think the goldfinches may have the same rule. So what do you do if you have polite birds that eat only to a certain level and then stop even if there is still good, fresh seed in half of the tube? Don't just top off your feeder with fresh seed. Empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

My favorite feeder is a Mesh Finch Feeders. Several birds can feed at a time, the seed airs out, it's easy to clean, easy to fill, has a lifetime guarantee, and is made in the USA. They eat from top to bottom. However if you're thinking of switching feeders remember that finches don't like change and it may take several minutes to several months for Goldfinches to accept a new feeder.

Fourth, yellow attracts Goldfinches that are scouting for new feeding sites. Just like you know about the golden arches of McDonald's, the birds know yellow represents food whether it’s a sunflower or a feeder. If your feeder isn't yellow, attach a yellow ribbon to the feeder to catch a scout's eye. Once one Goldfinch finds your feeder, a flock will follow.

If you already have a few finches at the new location then you just have to be patient. They are probably upset that you moved the feeder but will return eventually.