Tools for Possibilities

Backyard Birds

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 18

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, but the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Intelligently designed bird feeder

Effort-Less Bird Feeder

The Effort-Less birdfeeder is a gravity-fed dispenser that is easy to fill and clean, holds a lot of seed, provides a second lower tray for spillage for birds that typically feed on the ground. It is elegant, durable, and allows large numbers of birds to feed peacefully for long periods of time. It has an effective squirrel guard and is free-standing on a hefty base.

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The quality and design of this simple birdfeeder stand out. The design is a total rethink of many traditional styles that obviates all of the problems with other feeders. The quality is in the myriad thoughtful details of materials, construction and presentation that make it perform perfectly.

All of the parts fit together exquisitely when one follows the extremely clear instructions. Assembly was actually fun and without stress.

We have numerous feeders and fountains for the birds. After introducing the Effort-Less, we have seen a sudden influx of numerous kinds of rare birds, sometimes in large flocks. Not sure if this is coincidence or an overlapping of factors. Nonetheless, the birds are surely making good use of the feeder. We have owned this from spring to the beginning of autumn and it has madenbirdwatching a great pleasure in our lives. – Erica Heftmann

Perfect hummingbird feeder

HummZinger Hummingbird Feeder

There exist a seemingly endless variety of hummingbird feeder designs, and over the years we’ve tried many only to encounter a variety of annoying shortcomings. However, we have finally discovered the perfect feeder: the Aspects HummZinger Hummingbird Feeder. We have been using 4 of these feeders for about 5 years, and are completely satisfied with their design.

Where we live, mold growing inside a hummingbird feeder is a constant problem. Most feeders are extremely difficult to clean due to their vacuum feeding system that requires a narrownecked food reservoir. The HummZinger feeder solves this problem by using a simple bowl reservoir, not a gravity feed. Thus, when you pop off the top you have a completely open container that couldn’t be easier to clean. Another problem is that ants would occasionally find one of our feeders. Once this happens the only solution is to move the feeder and hope they don’t find it in the new location, or add an ant trap, which are hard to find. The HummZinger feeder solves this problem by having an integrated ant trap. Just fill it with water, or let rain do it, and you’ll be ant free. A final problem we’ve experienced with some feeders is that rain water can easily run into the feeding holes, diluting the solution to the point where it no longer attracts the hummingbirds. The HummZinger feeders address this problem by having a raised flowerdesign around each feeding port that diverts much of the rain water. While this isn’t a complete solution, this feature definitely reduces the problem.

The feeders come in 8, 12, and 16 oz sizes, with 3, 4, and 6 feeding ports respectively. The feeders are constructed of an “unbreakable” polycarbonate and come with a lifetime guarantee. We use multiple feeders in the “Mini” 8 oz. size because we find that the eastern Ruby Throated hummingbirds don’t “play well with others”, and too many ports on a single feeder lead to excessive squabbling. However, in the western US, where I have seen swarms of hummers happily sharing a feeder, the 16 oz model may be a better choice.

The only potential fault I can see with these feeders is that even the 16 oz model has much less capacity than many gravity-feed brands, which means that they must be refilled more often. We don’t find this a problem because by the time one of our feeders is empty it is also in need of a cleaning to avoid mold. – Dave King

Best bird attractions

The Backyard Birdfeeder’s Bible

Of the many backyard birdfeeding books on my shelf, this one is my favorite. Serious birders treat it as the best too. It introduced me to some neat tricks – using dried dog food as substitute feed, making suet holders from slab wood, planting small patches of grain as attractors. – KK

Feeds birds, not squirrels

Brome Squirrel Buster Bird Feeder

During the summer, the yard may have held flowers and been bathed in bright sunshine, but the winter can be cold, dark and barren without birds to fly around and liven things up. Wild birds are lively and colorful, and the seed you supply will keep them around and help sustain them through the winter. They are endlessly fascinating to watch and hear, and they really don’t eat very much.

Squirrels, on the other hand eat quite a bit. You don’t need to feed them, but if they can get to your bird feeder, they’ll empty it in no time at all.

Here’s where the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus comes in. The endless battle of wits between Bird Feeding Man and Squirrel is won most of the time by Squirrel. You will start off grossly underestimating the squirrel’s athleticism and sheer persistence. They can jump, and hang, and climb better than you can ever imagine. Happily, the human’s superior intelligence is manifested by many models of “squirrel-proof” bird feeders.

The best of which, especially for the price, is the Brome, made by a company in Canada. Birds, having evolved to be light for ease of flying, perch on the bottom and eat at will. Squirrels, being larger and heavier, weigh the bottom down and close off the openings (thus keeping them from just trying to shake the food out). The quality is high, the pressure is adjustable (to keep out starlings, grackles and other possibly large, unwanted birds) and all the parts are replaceable. It also has a lifetime warranty against squirrel damage. Your bird seed supply will take a long time to run out – the feeder has a large, 3 quart capacity and there will be no thievery. – Matthew Perks

Automatic bird bath filler


I sent one of these to a friend who lives in Tasmania. She has a wonderful assortment of southern hemispherical birds that she likes to feed and provide water for, but she travels on a regular basis, and the birds empty the bath in a day. She tried various home-brew ideas for automatically filling the bird bath, but none really did the trick for her. Also, this one’s the most aesthetically pleasing I could find, as the reservoir sits separate from the bird bath.

I sent her the KozyFill, she set it all up, fine-tuned the height of the various tubes, and voila! She’s got a yard full of happy Eastern rosellas, wattle birds, the occasional cockatoo, and other sundry birds of the Antipodes. Watching the birds beats TV any morning: you’ve got drama, conflict and humor in dazzling color right outside the bedroom window. – Rick Turner

Plans for a homemade automatic bird bath purger-filler by James M. Clark here. –Elon Schoenholz


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