Sunday, February 14, 2021

Is your feeder wasting bird seed? Quick tip on what to look for

One of the most puzzling aspects of bird feeding is how poorly designed most feeders are. It is not uncommon at all to hear folks complaining about refill rates, sometimes multiple times per day. When factoring the cost of good quality seed, this can become very expensive. Fortunately, just sifting through the ground "waste" (usually full of whole, uneaten seed) may provide the clues needed to remedy the situation.

Most commercially available feeders are designed to bring the seed level up and even with the station edge (tube) or trough edge (hopper). That, or with little raised edge to spare. This results in seed falling out even with the tidiest of native birds eating. House Sparrows and Starlings accelerate the problem, by deliberately throwing seed overboard thus emptying these feeders in a fraction of the time. Good design goes a long way toward reducing this.

When choosing your feeder, don't be afraid to ask for a seed fill-up demo to verify that waste is minimized. In the case of a tube, you can easily examine this by looking at the station roof trailing edge. You want to ensure that it comes down at least even with the station edge itself. If it does not, it is likely that the seed will come up too high and readily spill out. The below photos more than illustrate this problem:

Above/below: Avian Woodlink Series feeders (white) are correctly designed. It is clear in these photos that the station roof trailing edge comes down even with the station edge itself. The result is seed staying in the feeder, with birds having to reach in that little bit further to access. Debris (husks, in this case) and some dropped seeds are contained by the tray below, giving it a second chance among platform-friendly birds e.g. Cardinals. 
 
Above: A closer look at the Woodlink. The seed (in this case Black Oil Sunflower) is well contained in the station and will not spill out on its own. This is what you want to look for when selecting a feeder. Ask for a seed fill demo if necessary, but a look at the station roof line is usually enough.

Above/below: An inexpensive tube feeder purchased at Lowes. The above (and below, with Safflower) are exactly what you don't want in a feeder design, which accounts for most store-bought models unfortunately. You can literally empty these feeders with barely shaking them. During normal feeding, multiple seeds fall out for each one taken and eaten. The ground below your setup will quickly accumulate whole seed, and unless you have hoards of ground feeding birds, it may start to germinate -- probably by Spring.

Above: A closer up look at the Lowes no-name brand feeder, this time with Safflower. This is a 100% terrible design. The station roof trailing edge is split, and makes it only halfway to the station edge itself. If we were to use millet-types seeds which have lower viscosity, this feeder will literally empty itself sitting still.

In summary, avoid any feeder where the fill line of the station edge(s) isn't at least 1/8" lower, otherwise your bird seed will not stay in the feeder even under normal feeding conditions.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

PLEASE READ: Magic Halo 2021 Efficacy Survey 2.0

Please take or retake the Magic Halo Efficacy Survey for 2021 (2.0), by Zoho

Survey Monkey stripped features from our 2021 survey to the point it was dysfunctional and useless. First, they made the comments field a paid feature, which we needed for feedback and testimonials. Their latest move was to cut our number of visible survey results to 40, after we reached 48 and were hoping for 50. This is less than half of what was allowed for unpaid accounts. In a "nutshell", they want us to pay $33/month to run a single survey for an entire year, that has little chance of seeing 100+ participants anytime soon.

That said, we switched to ZoHo, a refreshing new platform that, unlike Survey Monkey, won't put the squeeze on us over the longer term. Simply said, we're not paying $300+/yr for what amounts to very little usage.

We would sincerely appreciate your participation (or re-participation if you already completed the 2021 Survey Monkey survey, even recently) which has been deleted with data unavailable. We lowered it to 2 Questions and an optional comments box, which can be used for feedback or a testimonial. We basically need to replace what was lost, with your help. Click HERE to access the new survey, with only seconds of your time required..

We thank you so much and appreciate your understanding!

--Frankie (Admin, MagicHalo.org).

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Quick Tip: Use a tiny binder clip to shorten hanging wires

Some of our customers have shown an interest in shortening their Magic Halo hanging wires. One customer claims that the weighted ends (hex nuts or bulbous sinkers) must fall even with the feeder trough or lowest station edge in order to work effectively. There is no hard study data making the case for wire length. In fact, in the original U of Neb paper, the "lines" (twine) were not weighted, but instead extended and pinned to the ground below for tension. Given that, we still believe that the weighted ends should fall a few inches below the feeder's lowest point, by preferably 6" or more. But given the subjective nature of feeding birds, and at least one customer's claim, you can always experiment.

If your hanging wires fall well lower than your feeder, there are a few easy methods for shortening them. We recommend "pigtails" using tiny binder clips. Simply wrap the wire around two fingers at the point they connect to the Halo and its crossbar, and clip in place as per the photos (older "Classic" model shown) below. Contact us if you have any questions or need assistance! admin@magichalo.org


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Customers confusing HOSP with native species

We have seen in the past few months that some of our customers are confusing House Sparrows (HOSP) with native bird species. We have had several complaints and even a Halo returned, citing its failure and that it actually encouraged more "sparrows" by providing additional perch space. Subsequent emailed photos revealed that it's not HOSP crowding their feeder, but Pine Siskins (PISI) or House Finches (HOFI).

As a result, we have updated our Disclaimer and Product Pages to better illustrate HOSP and how to identify them. We urge folks to read about the Pine Siskins and what is going on with that species (among others) and why they are suddenly "mobbing" feeders in the U.S.

The above said, we have been up front at all times that the Magic Halo isn't necessarily HOSP-proof. Our position is that it is a deterrent -- a tool in the anti-HOSP toolbox -- and at the very least, it should reduce them at bird feeders. We encourage folks to read our 2020 survey data and customer feedback and draw your own conclusions before buying a Magic Halo. Thank you so much!