Thom Smith | Nature Watch: Do birds avoid metal feeders?


Q: We have noticed that birds don't come to our metal bird feeders. I have spoken with others who say the same thing. Any idea why they don't like metal feeders?

— Joyce, Pittsfield, Mass.

A: I did not know that. We have hung four feeders this winter, all with metal ports or perches. And the variety of suet feeders I have had through the years have all been metal hardware cloth construction, in addition to our present niger (thistle) feeder that has been in use for maybe 10 years. A few years ago, I purchased an all-metal peanut feeder ball from Wild Bird Country Store in Great Barrington, Mass. It was inexpensive, well-built and attracts many species of avian peanut lovers — and it didn't take long for the pesky squirrels to learn it was useless to try getting crushed peanuts from it. So, I toss them peanuts-in-shell once-in-awhile. I have everything from woodpeckers to finches, nuthatches, cardinals and more coming for a handout.

I have heard that bird's feet will freeze to metal perches — false! Their feet are well-protected from cold weather, as are their beaks.

It took me many years to accept a well-constructed feeder by a well-known manufacturer like Duncraft, or Droll Yankee, out lasts the "cheep" all-plastic ones, although lower priced feeders, like Kaytee and Perky Pet, are also in our arsenal and have been in use for years.



It appears it is not only bear that attack my sunflower feeders. There have been a group of five deer, who visit my backyard occasionally. One of them is quite adept at somehow getting its tongue into the tiny hole in the feeder and eating the sunflower seeds. They have come by during the day a couple times, when I happened to look out my window. Who knows how many times they have come by at night! One raids the feeder while the other three or four deer eat what falls onto the snow. Often, there is one that stays back in the brush seeming to watch for intruders.

My feeders hang from trees about 50 to 60 feet from the house. I have watched them out there for as long as 15 minutes, emptying my tube bird feeders. I am amazed at their ability to do this. The deer are so beautiful at this time of the year with their dark, thick coats showing up nicely against the snowy landscape.

— Carol Ann, Hinsdale, Mass.


Well ... the towhee is still here in ice and snow (first reported Jan. 14). He is real pretty against the snow, but I sure feel sorry for him. He looks healthy and comes every day. A ground feeder, I never see him in a feeder, always on the ground. ( I have to correct myself ... the towhee does come to a window feeder I have, saw it there a few minutes ago.)

That is true [I see] very few chickadees I may have three or four each day. Tons of juncos, blue jays and mourning doves.

Saw a red-bellied woodpecker a few times lately. Never, never have I not had nuthatches — haven't seen one in weeks. Always had white-breasted and red-breasted, saw the red-breasted early in the winter a couple of times and the white-breasted one several times, but now they have disappeared. Miss them, one of my favorites.

— Joan, W. Halifax, Vt.

Birds are hardier than we think! This includes the eastern towhee. As for chickadees, I find that when I have multiple feeders I see more chickadees at one time.There may be a connection.

Thom Smith wrelcomes readers' questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201


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