If large birds with hearty appetites are taking over your yard, caged bird feeders can be the answer. Caged feeders keep larger birds from accessing all the birdseed and other foods you offer. They also provide a variety of other benefits for the birds in your yard.
What Is a Caged Bird Feeder?
A caged feeder is any classic bird feeder that is enclosed in sturdy metal mesh or a cage-like structure. This is most often done with tube-style feeders, but hopper and suet feeders can also be caged. Many feeders come with integrated cages, or you can fashion your own cage from chicken wire or similar metal mesh to cover your favorite feeder. The mesh around caged bird feeders is generally no wider than 1-1.5 inches in diameter. This excludes larger bird species but permits smaller songbirds to easily access the feeder. Doves, pigeons, grackles, starlings, crows, jays, and other large birds with even larger appetites can’t get through the mesh comfortably and will stay away from a caged feeder. Smaller birds, however, have no trouble navigating around the mesh. They can easily feed without being chased away or intimidated by larger birds.
The mesh barrier is usually several inches away from the feeder’s feeding ports. This ensures that larger birds can’t stretch and reach the available seed. It also makes the perches and feeding ports more comfortable for smaller birds, as they will not feel crowded by the barrier. Caged bird feeders come in a variety of shapes. Tubes and globes are the most common, but some feeders have more whimsical shapes such as bells or elegant architecture that mimics antique bird cages. Any shape can be suitable to enclose a bird feeder and provide safer feeding space for small birds, so long as the mesh is the right size.
Why Use a Caged Bird Feeder?
In addition to keeping bully birds with insatiable appetites away from feeders, caged bird feeders offer other benefits in the yard, including…
1. Keeping squirrels, raccoons, and other feeder pests away from the seed
Smaller guests, such as chipmunks, can still get through most caged feeders. Larger animals, including deer, will not be able to easily reach the food through the mesh.
2. Minimizing wasted seed
Larger birds often kick out a lot of seed from feeder, spilling it on the ground and attracting even larger flocks of bully birds to the feeding area. Smaller birds are often neater as they eat, and less seed will be spilled from caged feeders.
3. Providing extra perches for waiting birds
Many small birds that will easily visit caged feeders travel in flocks. The cage barrier can serve as extra perches as they wait for a feeding port to become available.
4. Keeping seed protected from rain and snow
Many caged feeders have a dome-like cover, which helps keep the feeder and feeding space below clean and dry. This minimizes seed spoilage and helps birds feed more comfortably in all weather conditions.
See also: How Do Birds Survive Winter?
5. Preventing accumulation of spilled seed
Because the mesh of a caged bird feeder is open, any spilled seed or discarded hulls will easily fall through the mesh onto the ground, rather than building up and rotting. This helps keep the feeding area cleaner and healthier for birds and other wildlife.
Birds That Can Use Caged Feeders
While larger birds are excluded from caged bird feeders, many smaller birds easily fit through the barrier and can happily visit these feeders. Titmice, goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, siskins, and redpolls will all readily use caged bird feeders. Still, it may take a few days for them to become accustomed to the feeder style and flit casually through the mesh. Slightly larger songbirds, such as cardinals, may also use these feeders, depending on the overall mesh size and how confident the birds are in the yard. Larger woodpeckers, like red-bellied woodpeckers, may even perch on the outside of the mesh and use their long, agile tongues to sneak a seed or two, but they will be unable to completely empty the feeder. If bully birds and other unwanted guests are a problem in your yard, caged bird feeders can be a great option to offer a protected, accessible space for smaller birds to feed. Larger birds can still visit other feeders in the yard or will clean up seed spilled from the caged feeder, bringing even more diversity and cooperative feeding to your backyard flock.