October 11, 2012

A Close Call

About a month ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek news report of how a bird died in my bird feeder. (See “Bird Feeder Claims First Victim.”) The post was intended to be humorous, but the bird in question was decidedly dead.

This morning, I went out on my deck to fill my feeders and discovered another bird whose neck had become trapped in the same feeder. The bird was well on its way to becoming the feeder’s second victim. The bird was still struggling, however, although it had not figured out that moving its neck to the center of the plastic panel under which it was trapped would provide sufficient room for it to extricate its head.

I tried pulling up on the seed bin wall, but the roof of the house-type feeder on the side where the bird was trapped is screwed to the walls of the feeder, and I could not get a good grip on the plastic panel to move it.

I returned to the kitchen to find a spatula with a thin wooden handle. With that implement, I was able to pry up the plastic seed bin wall and free the bird, which promptly (and mercifully) flew away. I guess animals freed by humans from threatening situations stay around to say thanks only in fairy tales.

I was happy that I was able to save the bird, but I now am seriously concerned about the design of what is generally a lovely bird feeder. The problem occurs only when the feeder is empty, but birds can empty the feeder quickly, and I cannot always be around to replenish the seed supply. If you own a similar Wild Birds Unlimited feeder, check it whenever you can for birds that may have become trapped.

Update, 10/13/2012. I wrote to Wild Birds Unlimited and received a prompt reply. The company had not previously received reports of the problem I identified, I was told, but it would look into possible manufacturing changes. The reply suggested that, if I could not keep the feeder filled, perhaps I should replace it with a platform feeder. Of course, platform feeders have their own problems, including their failure to protect seeds in the rain.

The obvious change that could be made to the bird feeder would be to change the curved shape at the bottom of the clear plastic feed bin walls. The curve, though, is probably intended to minimize the quantity of seed that falls out of the feeding station to the ground. An alternative might be to have a thick plate that sits on top of the seed and, when the seed is gone, covers the feed discharge opening. This would not be hard to design, though it would complicate filling the feeder, and a convenient mechanism for raising the plate once the feeder emptied would need to be devised.

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