Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
The suet we feed to our backyard birds has been fattening crows and raccoons lately. I’ve live-trapped three raccoons. Boy, does that make them upset. It’s hard to relocate those snarling guys once you own them. I had a friend in Minnetonka who live-trapped 54 raccoons one summer, all in his yard. I never asked him what he did with them. I’ll bet he didn’t relocate them. Relocation just gives the problem to someone else, and screws up the territorial demands of the animals. And the crows – can’t live-trap them; they’re much smarter than the raccoons. The latter will give it up for a chunk of Spam.
I hope I’ve solved the problem with construction of a new feeder.
The suet feeder we have used until this afternoon was attached to a tree in our yard. It was made of half-inch hardware cloth (flexible metal mesh with half-inch openings). It was closed on all sides once I loaded it and wired the access opening shut. The thieves sat on a nearby branch or atop the feeder, and work their thievery. How they emptied the feeder through half-inch openings I don't know. There was some kind of design flaw.
My new design ( shown below), is a case of overkill I think, industrial sized, but suet is expensive. You’ll see that it will be hard to reach the suet from the top, should you stand up there. The sides are slanted so, hopefully, crows, raccoons, and the occasional squirrel cannot get a lasting grip. The new feeder has a feeding port in its top, a port with a lockable wooden door. The vee shape is intended to allow the suet to slide along the sides to the bottom as it is hacked at, making it always available to the birds. The old feeder was shaped like a rectangular box. Suet at the back of the old feeder went uneaten (unless you were a crow or raccoon).
I’m have mounted this on the currently used tree, but lower, about 10 feet off the ground, with no perching branches in reach. I used an extension ladder to fill the former feeder. I clung to the ladder about 15 feet off the ground, too high for me. I can fill the new feeder by standing on a stepladder. I like neither heights nor ladders. I do like woodpeckers.
Suet is popular here. We get heavy traffic some days: Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers, flickers, and, best of all, Pileated Woodpeckers. One day last winter we had four of those birds on the feeder tree at the same time, with a fifth in a nearby tree. Brown Creepers occasionally snip off a bit of suet in the winter as they work their way up that tree. The woodpeckers are here year around. We feed in all seasons.
Twenty minutes after installation we had two Downy Woodpeckers eating suet there. They were tentative about leaving the tree to mount the feeder. I nailed two large chunks of bark to the feeder to make access more user-friendlly.
This project took way too much time. I don't have top-notch carpenter skills, but I am slow. If I built and sold these things and wanted a reasonable hourly return, such a feeder would cost about $500. Unpainted.
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