Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Platform Feeders Invite Special Guests
November 14, 2020
By Steve Grinley
I have talked about my first feeder in past columns. It was a platform that I made out of plywood when I first got interested in birds at the age of 12. The open platform was about 15 inches square and I put one to two inch sides all around. It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional. I mounted it on a post outside a window on the quiet side of the house and filled it with striped sunflower, which was the popular bird seed available back then.
Living in urban West Newton on a busy street, I wasn’t expecting much action. But soon after, I heard a banging outside the window. I peered out at a blue jay banging the sunflower against the side of the feeder to open it.
It was my first feeder bird! I was so close to it that I could marvel at all the shades of blue mixed with white feathers and its deep black collar. It made me appreciate blue jays from the start.
I also found that my platform feeder attracted many kinds of birds. I saw chickadees, mourning doves and, yes, house sparrows. It gave me an appreciation of many of the common, local birds. I even remember a downy woodpecker coming to it that, as a young new birder, I thought was very cool!
These years later I still use some platform feeders, in addition to my other feeders, to attract different birds. I find that many of the winter finches more readily take to an open platform. Since this was predicted to be a good “finch winter,” we hung a small platform feeder off of one hook and mounted another larger one atop another pole. We now have evening grosbeaks feeding at both, as well as some of our purple finches, goldfinches, and pine siskins. We also seem to have more cardinals now, as they also prefer platforms or trays.
Platform feeders have come a long way since my first woodworking marvel. Many have screened bottoms for drainage (instead of the holes that I drilled in the bottom of my original one.) Some have removable screens for easy cleaning. Some have roofs to protect the tray from snow and rain – these are called “fly-through feeders.” Some platform or fly-through feeders maybe hung with a chain while others may be mounted stationary on a pole.
Platform and fly-through feeders usually are open on all sides, which gives birds easy access and also easy escape should a predator appear. They allow all size birds to feed together. The downside is that they have to be filled often because there is no reservoir of seed. A squirrel baffle is also required as they can easily access these open feeders.
The joy of watching flocks of grosbeaks devour all of our sunflower is worth the added maintenance. It is reminiscent of the 70’s and 80’s when these birds were more frequent visitors during good finch winters.
And I also still enjoy seeing the blue jays at the platforms as well!
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