Last Updated on May 8, 2022 by Nancie
What birds can you expect in a caged bird feeder and what unexpected birds might also use the feeder? You probably purchased the feeder to attract smaller birds that fit through the cage’s wire grid while blocking aggressive larger birds. But you might be surprised at some of the visitors.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Caged Bird Feeders I Use
I have two types of caged bird feeders in my yard. The first are four Woodlink Squirrel-Proof Seed Feeders. (See above photo.) Each is made of a plastic tube feeder surrounded by a metal cage. The second are two Erva Starling-Proof feeders. (See below photo.) These more drum-shaped feeders can be purchased with various inner feeder options but again are surrounded by a metal cage. I fill the Woodlink feeders with sunflower chips. One of my Erva feeder houses an inner suet cage and the other holds a bowl of dried mealworms.
The goal of a caged feeder is to allow in smaller birds while blocking aggressive larger birds like European Starlings and Common Grackles. So you might purchase this type of feeder if you like to feed various finches like House Finches, American Goldfinches or Pine Siskins for example. Other small birds that easily pop in and out of caged feeders in my yard are Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Pine Warblers and Tufted Titmouses. American Bluebirds can also learn to slip inside the Erva feeders to get mealworms.
But what other less expected birds might you find using these feeders? Here are a few more less typical birds that eat from these feeders in my yard.
Downy Woodpeckers in Caged Feeders
I had Woodlink caged feeders in the yard for several years before Downy Woodpeckers started hopping inside to eat sunflower chips. Downys are fairly small as woodpeckers go. They are just small enough that they can slip between the metal wires to get inside. Once they learned the trick, they became regulars on the Woodlink feeders. I’ve noticed over the years that once one bird figures something out, their fellows tend to learn the trick too.
Once they figured out how to get into Woodlink feeders for sunflower, getting inside a caged suet feeder shouldn’t have been a surprise. I have several upside-down suet feeders in my yard as well as one Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder. My expectation when I purchased the Erva feeder was that the woodpeckers would use the upside-down feeders. I thought the Erva feeder would be a place for small birds like chickadees and wrens to grab a bite of suet. And this did happen. But I also found that the Downy Woodpeckers were just as happy to go inside the Erva caged feeder as to hang on the upside-down feeder. They might even use the Erva feeder a bit more.
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Caged Feeders
A Red-Bellied Woodpecker is quite a bit larger than a Downy. It is too big to fit inside the cage of a Woodlink caged feeder. But that doesn’t stop Red-Bellies in my yard from regularly eating sunflower chips from the feeder. Instead of going inside the cage, the Red-Bellies hang on the side of the feeder. Reaching through the metal grid with their head and long beak and long tongue, they can pull sunflower seed out of the feeder ports. (Look carefully at the photo above. This bird is using his tongue to grab the seed.)
Gray Catbirds in Caged Feeders
I was recently surprised when another slightly larger bird figured out how to get into the Erva caged feeder to get suet: a Gray Catbird. We don’t usually see catbirds hanging around in the yard for long. They usually show up for a couple days when they first arrive in the area in the spring.
In the past, catbirds have mostly been interested in the suet feeders when they arrive. Catbirds aren’t great at the whole hanging upside-down thing and mostly were reduced to picking up suet scraps underneath. So they usually would not stay long.
But this year, one of the three catbirds that arrived in the spring figured out how to get inside the caged Erva suet feeder. This particular bird was small enough or clever enough to get inside the feeder, eat and slip back out again easily. The other two catbirds hover on the outside of the cage and can’t seem to duplicate the trick. I’m not sure if it is a matter of size or just physical skill.
Chipping Sparrows in Caged Feeders
Last spring I was surprised by a different spring arrival that popped into the Erva caged suet feeder. Usually the tiny Chipping Sparrows show up in the spring and eat seed. Like most sparrows, they seem to prefer to eat on the ground, but they are a bit more flexible than some and will also eat from feeders.
In past years, when I only had upside-down suet feeders, I never saw a Chipping Sparrow eating suet. Hanging upside-down isn’t the way a sparrow eats. So it never occurred to me that they ate suet. But once I added the caged suet feeder, that gave them a way to get to the suet.
When they first arrived in the spring, they were in and out of the caged feeder quite a bit. But after a few days they stopped. My guess is that they were interested in the suet for quick energy after their journey and it became less necessary once they were more settled in.
Birds That Can’t Get Into Caged Feeders
You might wonder if the aggressive birds that I hoped to keep out have figured out the caged feeders. They have not. Even after years of persistent attempts, European Starlings have never been able to get into either the Woodlink or Erva caged feeders. The cages are also far enough out from the food that they can’t reach their beaks inside to get it. They hang on the side of the cage and try their best to get at the food. Sometimes if another bird has spilled the food on the Erva feeder’s floor near the cage they might get a scrap or two, but that is it.
The same is true of attempts by Common Grackles. They will try hanging on the side to get at the food, but they are also blocked out as well. They instead hang around underneath the Woodlink caged feeders and wait for the finches to drop pieces of sunflower chips down to them.
What Birds Do You See in Your Caged Feeders?
The food you put into a feeder will also impact which birds use the feeder. So for example if you fill it with peanuts instead of sunflower seed, you might find different birds that work to get inside. For example, finches rarely go into the Erva caged feeders in my yard because they aren’t particularly interested in the suet or dried mealworms. Put sunflower chips in the feeder and they hop right inside.
Do you have caged feeders in your yard? What food do you put inside them and what birds have you seen eat from them? Your comment below would be most welcome!
Also Check out:
FeederWatch’s Preferences of Common Feeder Birds Interactive Page.
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