Put a Ground Feeder on a Pole

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This "Fly-Through" Platform Feeder Used to Be a Ground Feeder
This “Fly-Through” Platform Feeder Used to Be a Ground Feeder

Each new season brings changes to the bird dynamics in the yard. So I tend to do some tweaking of the bird feeders or their placement each season. To reduce the amount of seed winding up in squirrel bellies, I decided to turn a ground platform feeder into a platform feeder on a pole. The feeder I converted is a Birds Choice Fly-Through Platform Feeder.

Birds Choice Covered Feeder Sitting on Top of a Backyard Boys Ground Feeder
Birds Choice Covered Feeder Temporarily Sitting on Top of a Backyard Boys Ground Feeder

Birds Choice Fly-Through Platform Feeder

I purchased this covered feeder at my local bird store, Mother Nature’s in Columbia Maryland. It can be found on Amazon as well. The tray is approximately 13″ x 16″ with the roof adding a few more inches as it overhangs just a bit. It has a sturdy construction of mostly recycled polymer. The removable metal seed tray is perforated to let water drain through.

Backyard Boys Ground Platform Feeders
Backyard Boys Ground Platform Feeders

When I bought it, I already had two Backyard Boys uncovered ground platform feeders but they got wet when it rained or snowed unless placed in protected positions. When seed gets wet, it can rot.

My thought in buying this covered feeder was that it would be a little more protected from wet weather. With legs on it, it also sits higher and so is less apt to get buried in bigger snows.

Legs Make This a Ground Feeder
Legs Make This a Ground Feeder

Feeder Can Be Used Three Ways

This particular feeder is designed to be flexible. It can be used on the ground, on a pole or hung from a sturdy tree branch or other support. The feeder itself consists of a roofed platform. You purchase additional accessories or hardware for the way you want to use it.

At the time, I wanted a ground feeder, so I purchased a set of legs with the feeder. My local store offered leg sets made of either wood or of the same recycled polymer as the feeder itself. I picked the later as, although more expensive, they should last longer outside.

The legs came with screws, but the feeder itself didn’t have pre-drilled holes for them. So Jim kindly drilled holes and put the legs on for me.

A Mourning Dove and a House Finch Eating Safflower When It Was a Ground Feeder
A Mourning Dove and a House Finch Eating Safflower When It Was a Ground Feeder

I used this feeder with the legs through one fall and winter. It was not hugely popular at first. Often it takes birds awhile to try out a new feeder. But even over time, this one was typically last to get bird attention. Once we started getting snow, it became more popular. The high legs and roof kept it clear of the snow and the seed dry.

A Northern Cardinal and a House Sparrow Use the Birds Choice Feeder on a Very Wet Cold Day
A Northern Cardinal and a House Sparrow Use the Birds Choice Feeder on a Very Wet Cold Day

Squirrels Get Into Ground Feeders

But, as happens with ground feeders, it also became popular with squirrels. I fill ground feeders with safflower seed. Although my local squirrels weren’t thrilled with it at first, they will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough. Now I think they’ve developed a taste for it. So this feeder would tend to be dominated by squirrels. A good portion of the seed went into their furry bellies instead of the birds. (Also see A Seed Squirrels Won’t Eat? )

When summer began and birds were eating less purchased seed, I decided to stop filling the three ground feeders. I instead used one Backyard Boys open ground feeder for occasional treats like mealworms or peanuts. The other (still under a picnic table) was only used for occasional seed emptied out of one of the hanging platform feeders. I stored the covered feeder in the garage for the season.

Mount Platform Feeder on a Pole

When fall arrived again, I took the covered feeder out but decided to mount it on a pole. Back at my local store, I got recommendations for the hardware needed.

If you have read my previous posts on poles for bird feeders, you may notice that this pole is not the shepherd’s hook type used as a base for my hanging feeders. While you can purchase chains to hang this feeder, I instead mounted it on top of a straight pole. This makes more sense for a feeder this heavy (approximately eleven pounds empty).

New Feeder Pole, Baffle and Hardware
New Feeder Pole, Baffle and Hardware

I purchased a sturdy straight pole, and a metal anchor piece that goes into the ground that the pole slips onto and a metal mounting flange that attaches to the bottom center board of the feeder. The flange allows it slide over the top of the pole. (There is a screw on this piece that you hand turn to firmly secure it to the pole.) I also purchased another cylindrical can baffle to protect the feeder from squirrels.

Keep Squirrels Out of Feeders

I’ve learned the hard way that the trick to keeping squirrels out of feeders is to purchase the right feeders, baffle them correctly and place them strategically. Placement is probably the thing that trips people up the most about feeders.

First, to cut down on window collisions, feeders should either be within three feet of a window or more than thirty feet out. And if you have squirrels in your yard, as I do, it is important to keep feeders out of squirrel jumping and climbing range.

A can baffle needs to be attached to the pole beneath the feeder so the squirrels can’t simply shimmy up it. The pole and feeder should be placed at least eight feet from anything that a squirrel can leap from.

Pole Feeders Near the Wisteria Tangle's Cover
Pole Feeders Near the Wisteria Tangle’s Cover

I also like to position feeders so that birds using them have a decent chance to get to cover when the local Coopers’ Hawk suddenly swoops into the yard to hunt. I put this one right next to an old hopper type feeder on a pole that is close to a tangle of wisteria the birds like for cover.

Fill the Feeder With Safflower

Most of the local birds were familiar with this feeder, having used it in its ground feeder incarnation the previous winter. The other pole feeder next to it got a lot of use, so they began to use the feeder very quickly.

I still put safflower in it because the Northern Cardinals love it and many other birds in the yard have learned to eat it as well. But now that it is up high, I have more flexibility in what I put into it.

I tried a little bit of sunflower hearts as well, to please the American Goldfinches, who don’t eat safflower. Sunflower always seems to be a favorite of many birds though. If you mix the two in one feeder, they tend to pick out the sunflower and leave the safflower until the sunflower is gone. So I now just fill it with safflower.

Note: The seed you put in a feeder makes a big difference. Check out my post on Choosing Seed For Backyard Birds.

Northern Cardinal Enjoying Safflower in the Feeder Newly Installed on a Pole
Northern Cardinal Enjoying Safflower in the Feeder Newly Installed on a Pole

The Feeder is Now Popular

This “new” feeder is now quite popular with Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and White-Breasted Nuthatches. Some of my less favorite birds, like Red-Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown-Headed Cowbirds, enjoy this feeder as well in the winter and early spring.

Winter ground birds like White-Throated Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Juncos that got into it as a ground feeder are mostly not interested in now that it is up high.

House Finches and Mourning Doves Enjoying the "New" Feeder
House Finches and Mourning Doves Enjoying the “New” Feeder

Right now my feeders are working well. As time passes, if I find that this changes, I’ll tweak things again. But with this arrangement, I’ve be able to conserve more seed and spend less on seed going into squirrel bellies!

Nancie

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