I should start out by admitting that I am not a birdwatcher. I’d like to be if I had more time, but sadly, this has not come to pass. My original reason for purchasing a bird feeder was to provide “cat TV” for my pets while I was away at work. But over the years, as the number of species visiting my yard has increased, I have come to appreciate what a difference they make. Their songs, their colours, their activity has added a whole new dimension to my garden. When I started, only sparrows seemed able to locate the free food, but now native birds like chickadees, American Goldfinches, and even occasional cardinals and woodpeckers are visitors. I am even considering a bird guide to identify the ones I don’t know.
I have learned from owning crappy birdfeeders that it is better to spend a bit more once than to spend less over and over again. Badly designed bird feeders cost you time and money: time wasted cleaning them because they allow rain to get in and rot the seed, and money from seed wasted on greedy squirrels. Don’t get me wrong, squirrels can be cute, but they can go through kilos of seed in a week if there are enough in your area. Also, many cheap feeders just don’t wear wear well through Ottawa’s savage winters – cracked plastic especially seems to be a problem.
Luckily, there are feeders like the Eliminator. At approximately $100.00 they are not cheap, but after three years of owning one I can testify that they are worth the money. The design is simple but brilliant: the top unscrews so that fresh seed can be easily poured in. The long clear cylinder (approximately 2 feet tall) not only keeps the seed dry, but allows you to monitor the supply. The seed is plucked from the feeder by birds only at the very bottom, so the seed doesn’t accumulate and rot. I haven’t had to clean my feeder since I purchased it.
The best part is that the squirrel proofing system actually works. The access holes for the seed have a gate that can be set to different weight tolerances. When a creature heavier than the weight setting tries to sit on the perch and get the seed, the gate closes. All the usual squirrel burglary stunts, like jumping from a distant taller object or shimmying along wires don’t help them get in. All the squirrels can do is wait patiently beneath the feeder for birds to drop some seed – which I don’t mind at all.
Some larger, greedier birds like grackles and starlings are smart enough to foil the weight setting system, even though they are heavy enough to close the gate. Somehow, they’ve learned that if the flap their wings and bounce up and down, they can grab some seed in the instant the gate is open. I have made my peace with this: if they are smart enough to do this, maybe they deserve the food. Also, grackles make wonderful video game noises, so I like having them around.
As for weathering, the Eliminator is doing very well so far. There is no rust on any of the metal parts, and no cracked or clouded plastic. There is a bit of chipped paint around the seed holes, but they are not unsightly and again, haven’t let to any rust problems. You can’t even see them unless you are up close.
In terms of look, the Eliminator is simple and reasonably clean in terms of lines. To be honest, I have seem more elegant looking bird feeders – including ones hand made by designers that would be right at home in an art gallery. For those designs, however, it is clear that they don’t solve the moisture or squirrel problems that can make you want to stop feeding birds entirely. I have yet see see one that combines exquisite looks with the practicality that the Eliminator offers. In this case, function must trump aesthetics, at least for me.
The Eliminator needs some assembly, but if you can put Ikea furniture together, you should be able to handle the job. They make great gifts – I have given four or five so far, and all reports are positive.
Rural residents be warned: this feeder is not bear proof. No feeder is. A relative who subjected the feeder to accidental field testing has determined that nothing can come between a bear and a delicious muesli snack.
By Jennifer Priest
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