Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hummingbird feeders and cats: How to keep your birds safe

Hanging a feeder high could help to protect your birds from cats
When I was a kid, everyone I knew had a hummingbird feeder. Since I grew up in an orchard town, we had hummingbirds simply everywhere, and it was great fun to see them zoom up, perch for a drink and zoom away.

My backyard doesn't have a plethora of blooming flowers, but I do have a few lilacs and I had noticed several hummingbirds checking out those plants. "Time for a feeder!" I thought.

Then I remembered that we have outdoor cats.

I couldn't bear the thought of our cats killing these birds, especially since some hummingbird species are endangered.

Lucky for me, I am married to a very handy guy. He rigged up our feeder on a nylon rope, so the feeder is well out of the reach of our cats but it can still be lowered for periodic cleaning and refilling. It's also right next to our windows, so we can see the birds when they come to feed. This might make entertaining viewing for our indoor cats. Everyone wins!

Placement really is key when you're putting up a feeder and living with cats. A very high feeder that isn't within leaping distance of a tree or a windowsill will make it harder for cats to lie in wait for a feathered feaster. But, hummingbirds also like to find feeders next to trees, flowers and other natural sources of nectar.

I've had great luck placing feeders next to flimsy plants like lilac, butterfly bush and lavender. These plants can be really tall, but they can also be willowy and bendable. That allows hummingbirds to rest on them, but they'll bend when a cat comes near. For me, that's been an ideal solution. 

As far as I can tell, we have no takers at our outdoor restaurant at this point. According to this site, I may have put up the feeder during the nesting time, when the birds are feeding insects to their young instead of drinking nectar. Just my luck. I will keep filling and cleaning the feeder, and hoping I get some visitors as the summer progresses.

For more information on feeding hummingbirds, including good advice on how to rig up a feeder, click here.