Building the World's Largest Bird Feeder

With the help of lots of friends and neighbors, we filled and hoisted the world's largest bird feeder between two stout trees with a chain hoist. Our first bird shortly arrived, a black-capped chickadee.
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The first question on the reader's mind may be, "Why?"

It's not a simple answer, but the short story is that it was just something that got out of hand.

As a science teacher, I am always looking for ways to get people interested in science and the natural world, so I periodically invite groups down to my "camp" in Keister, West Virginia, on the Greenbrier River. The focus is usually water quality and aquatic life, but any reptiles or birds sighted usually mean a detour in the planned activities.

Because my students and friends showed an interest in birds, I put up a small feeder filled with sunflower seed. Sure enough, the feeder attracted birds—so many, in fact, that I had to refill the feeder a couple of times a week.

Looking for a larger feeder, I did a Web search for "large bird feeder" and up popped a photo and story about the Guinness Book of World Records Largest Bird Feeder, a feeder in England that held about 230 pounds of seed. "I can do better than that," I thought, so I designed a feeder that was about twice the size of the record holder.

I showed the design to a professional carpenter and amateur birder friend, Chris Ide. When he saw my design, he said, "Well maybe if you do this, how about if we do that, what would happen if we changed this..." (Birders are always beating around the bush, aren't they.) In the end we designed the feeder to hold 760 pounds of seed based on his ideas. It has 20 feeding ports in eight large compartments to accommodate different types of seed. These compartments have inclined floors so the feed continuously enters the feeding ports, and with the hanging feeders on each corner, I am able to experiment with many types of seed to see who eats what.

After contacting the Guinness Book of World Records to get approval for the attempt, we constructed the feeder. With the help of lots of friends and neighbors, we filled and hoisted it between two stout trees with a chain hoist. Our first bird shortly arrived, a black-capped chickadee.

A few weeks later, after submitting all the documentation (a big stack of stuff consisting of signed affidavits, still photos, videos, newspaper articles, etc.), we received our certificates in the mail declaring our feeder the largest in the world.

In just a couple of months, the large number and variety of birds visiting it have eaten over 200 pounds of seed. So far, I have identified the American goldfinch, northern cardinal, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, black-capped chickadee, mourning dove, Carolina wren, white-breasted nuthatch, northern flicker, blue jay, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco, eastern towhee, tufted titmouse, indigo bunting, and others.

There's nothing more fun and satisfying than watching the birds come and go all day from the feeder. (Of course, you already knew that.)

About William Greene

William makes his home in southern West Virginia with his wife and two cats. A science teacher with 34 years of experience, he currently works with the Creative Classrooms Program for Carnegie Hall West Virginia, offering science enrichment classes to rural schools.

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