Sunday, January 19, 2014

The garden as a bird feeder

In general, our garden is our bird feeder- we planted native plants and created habitat to suit birds' primary food- insects.  And it has worked well, though it is not your traditional "birder's garden".  I feel like I have written this post before (and probably better), but it is a good reminder this time of the year.  For several years I have had mixed feelings for bird feeders, and I have stopped using bird feeders through summer, spring and fall.  I have stopped using seed feeders altogether, and occasionally and seasonally use different forms of suet feeders (see below), including native plant suet we prepare ourselves (click here).

Our goal is to make our garden our feeder by planting native plants and providing habitat and this sustains a variety of birds, insects and other wildlife. This has been our goal, and even in a small, city lot, you can have success.

Our giant ant hill in our front yard is a Northern flicker's favorite.   Through the winter, flickers dig this up for tasty grubs (and defenseless slow moving adults in the cold).

In winter, we add some feeders for birds, but not the typical ones people are used to seeing, though non-traditional feeders, yet they are more natural. for example, my favorite, carcasses.
These parts and pieces are left overs from butchering our game meat during hunting season.

Although the aesthetic might not be for everyone, carcasses (from winterkill, and predator kills) are the original suet feeder (click here for more information). 

Even a little scapula can be an enticing feeder for chickadees, nuthatches, flickers, and downy woodpeckers.

In addition to providing housing for native solitary nesting bees, mason bee boxes, aka "larvae feeders" provide food for nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and chickadees that pick the overwintering larvae out. Here a chickadee uses its wings for improved leverage to get one out
But perhaps more important in our garden are the natural and original nest boxes- snags.
Birds are a source of food too. With a lot of birds around, come things that eat them.
Here a sharp-shinned hawk eats a cedar waxwing in our garden.
All that it left was the beak
So this winter, consider your feeders, and perhaps shift to some natural or unconventional feeders.  Feeding birds is a lot more than seed feeders, and it is a lot more effective with non-traditional means.


  1. Whoa...that is quite the last photo. I've seen a few smaller birds get taken by hawks at our place. Its always a fascinating spectacle. I still have two standard feeders...but perhaps I should look into some alternatives. I do love watching the birds on the sunflowers more than at the feeder, say. They have to work for it and its more natural for them and interesting for me. No one in my household hunts...but I bet we could figure something out...

  2. Very impressive! And you get some great bird pics.

  3. Ha! Thanks for explaining what emptied out the cells of my orchard bee condo complexes this fall! In future years I'll guard them with screening.