Bird lover Alvin New of Lakeport, Florida, watches hundreds of beautifully colored finches eat wild seeds from his homemade bird feeder every year. The painted buntings and indigo buntings that flock to his feeder are a glorious sight in the winter months. Alvin designed a feeder that attracts not only small wild birds but due to its innovative features, larger ones as well. Cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, doves and black birds eat seeds all year round standing on the wide skirt outside the feeder. The buntings eat cozy and safe inside.
From his kitchen table, Alvin watches more than 50 small birds coming and going morning and night from his birdfeeder just five feet from his window. He has been bird watching for 30 years. Close to the bird feeder are large trees and bushes the buntings use for cover. Alvin’s property is located in a fly zone for buntings. They are neo-tropical migrants, according to “Birds of North America” by Fred J. Alsop lll.
Birds Feed Safely
According to Alsop, the painted bunting likes small seeds and sunflower seeds. Alvin buys wild birdseed containing millet for the buntings and sunflower seeds for larger birds. Alvin puts two cups of feed in his feeder per day during the season when buntings are present (Oct.-May). When they eat more, he adds more. After the buntings leave and go north, he puts a half cup of feed in the feeder for the larger birds and opens the feeder door so they can get inside (May-Oct.). The top skirt of the feeder acts as a roof. The bottom skirt acts as a rat or squirrel guard that prevents rodents climbing the post and stealing the bird food. These wild birds also need water and Alvin has located two birdbaths close to his feeder.
This homemade feeder is a labor of love and once built will last many years unless extremely high winds tear it up. Alvin’s bird feeder has been through numerous hurricanes and minor repairs were needed from time to time. The materials can be purchased at feed stores or lumberyards but do require cutting and sawing.
Instructions to Build
- One (1) 1/2” thick quarter sheet of plywood (48” x 24”)
- One (1) 60” length of 1” x 2” welded cage wire
- Two (2) pieces of 48” x 48” square sheets of 18-gauge aluminum
- One (1) 6½ foot long treated fence post with 4” diameter
- Eight (8) ½” self-tapping screws
- Ten (10) 2 ½” self-tapping screws
- Four (4) 3” deck screws with inverted hex heads
- Small package of cage clamps
- 40 galvanized poultry wire staples – ¾”
- Reciprocating hand held skill saw
- 3/8” electric or battery powered drill
- Driver for hex head screws
- Driver for deck screws
- Driver for self-tapping screws
- Tin snips
- Wire cutters
- Tape measure
- Put post in ground 1 /12 feet deep. Pack it in tight. Let it set overnight.
- Using skill saw, cut out two 16” circles out of plywood to make top and bottom of bird feeder.
- With wire cutters cut the welded wire 18” high and 52” long, or more as needed for overlap. Make sure the 2″ holes are running up the vertical length.
- Work the cut welded wire around the bottom circle of wood to make a cylinder that fits snugly around the bottom. Fasten wire to side of wood base with staples using the hammer.
- Next, attach the loose vertical edge of the wire cylinder with cage clamps.
- Turn upside down and secure the wire to the side of the top circle with staples.
- Next. cut with wire cutters a 6″ wide and 10″ high doorway out of the welded wire cylinder about 4” from the bottom making sure not to leave sharp edges (Shave off if necessary ’til smooth.)
- Cut a 1” overlapping door out of extra welded wire, and set it aside.
- Then, make two circles about 48” in circumference out of the aluminum sheets; one for the top (roof )and one for the bottom (rat guard).
- With tin snips cut a straight line from the edge to the center of each circle.
- Then, holding each aluminum circle separately, overlap the cut edges until you get slightly cone- shaped skirts for the top and the bottom.
- Maintain the shape of the skirts where they overlap with vise grips.
- Fasten overlapped edges of the skirts with ½ “ self-tapping screws.
- Arttach the bottom skirt (rat guard) on top of the post with four 21/2” self-tapping screws.
- Flatten the top of the bottom skirt on the top of the post with a hammer.
- Attach the top skirt (roof) onto the top of the wire cage with 2 1/2 ” self-tapping crews.
- With a helper liftng the cylinder cage set it on top of the bottom skirt on the center of the post and hold it in place.
- Put drill through the open doorway of the cage and attach the floor of the cage into the top of the post with 3″ deck screws.
- Using cage clips as hinges attach the door.
- Hold door shut with wooden clothespin.
- Slide long tree branches or sticks through the hole to make perches.
Enjoy the Sight
Buntings and finches slip into the protective center of the cage through 2″ holes while large birds fly to the bottom skirt and wait for seeds to splash out to the edges. When the small birds leave their habitat, the door can be left wide open for large birds to feast.