Feed the Birds

How many times have you been driven to distraction by squirrels stealing food from the bird feeders in your garden? They dart across washing lines, clamber up poles and perform extraordinary feats of gymnastics, all in an attempt to stuff their mouths with seeds and nuts intended for blue tits, sparrows and finches. To make matters worse, greedy magpies also like to get in on the act, struggling to perch on ledges designed for much smaller birds, and scattering food all over the ground to be hoovered up by pigeons. It’s extremely frustrating, but all I can say is don’t give up, for help is at hand. The Form 5 scholars have been working hard to invent an ingenious new generation of pest proof bird feeders.

The six scholars from Form 5 meet with me on a weekly basis to take part in an eclectic range of activities, including maths challenges and tasks designed to promote fluent and creative thinking. For the bird feeder design, I introduced the scholars to the acronym S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to help them understand that, when inventing, it isn’t necessary to start from scratch. You can Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Magnify or Minimise. You can Put a known object or idea to other uses, Eliminate or Elaborate, and Rearrange or Reverse. Using this method, the pupils came up with designs which, although they resemble conventional bird feeders, have some very special and unique features.

Vivienne’s Bird Feeder Robot can be controlled from your Apple Watch. The basic package consists of a hammock with tiny holes on which small birds can land and feed. The hammock can be strung between trees, although Vivienne is also planning to supply poles, should you have no suitable trees in your garden, and these are expected to retail at £50. To get the most from the feeding hammock, you should really consider investing a further £50 for the robot and app. Having downloaded the app, you can then press the robo button on your watch to activate the sensor on the hammock. The robot, cunningly concealed inside the hammock when not in use, will silently scare away large birds or squirrels by waving its hands. Better still, your watch will vibrate to let you know, wherever you may be in the world, that something is trying to steal the nuts from your hammock. I put it to Vivienne that £100 was quite pricey for a bird feeder but she told me that there is a 3 for 2 offer available on the app; ideal if you have a large garden or want to club together with your neighbours.

Ela’s Auto Feeder hangs from a tree and retails at £69.99. The nuts and seeds can be stored safely inside the feeder and are protected by a flap, through which only small birds can fit. An alarm will sound if a large bird or squirrel lands on the feeder, so you can rush out into your garden and chase away the intruder. Sensing a marketing opportunity, her initial plan was to incorporate shiny colours into her bird feeder design, but the others pointed out that shiny colours are notoriously attractive to magpies. For this reason, the final appearance of the Auto Feeder is still under review as I write.

The Microfeeder invented by Luke has a microphone to detect the arrival of larger birds. When activated, the feeder will make a scary noise to frighten them away. The food is contained safely inside the feeder, which has two hatches to reduce overcrowding. I expressed my concern that larger birds would still attempt to infiltrate the hatches. However, Luke assures me that only their beaks will fit through the hatch, and that is likely to prove so frustrating for them that they are unlikely to repeat the experience. The Microfeeder is priced at a very reasonable £43.99, but cunning Luke would prefer you to buy two for £90. A definite case of buyer beware!

George wants to patent the Bireeube, combining the concept of a traditional bird feeder with an ultra modern tube designed especially for birds. Initially, I was worried that the tube, which measures a full two metres in length, would be off-putting and potentially quite dangerous for small birds who could become trapped or crushed inside. However, it turns out that the tube opens out into a much larger and extremely palatial space, even featuring a fabric floor for the birds’ ultimate comfort. We could all see an obvious drawback with the fabric floor, so George quickly amended his design to incorporate a flap for easy cleaning. He is planning to sell the Bireeube for £69.99, but he says you can buy three for £150. Again, a bargain for those with large gardens!

The Hangable Bird Feeder is Shriyaa’s idea and features an unusual multi-sensory concept of bird management. Like Ela’s feeder, an alarm will sound if large birds or squirrels land on it, but the feeder will also emit a special scent they should find particularly repellent. The feeder itself will be the traditional cage design, but the holes in the cage will ensure that only small birds can access the food. Shriyaa is hoping to produce her feeder in a colour specially formulated to attract small birds and is planning some tests to identify the optimum shade. In the meantime, she will supply the feeders with a selection of paint pots so customers can make the best choice for their own garden setting. The Hangable Bird Feeder will sell for £59.99, with a buy one get one free introductory offer for a limited time only.

Finally, the Auto Ultimate Bird Feeder designed by Aidan also hangs from a tree and has a little hole at the end through which birds can enter to eat. It is automatic, featuring a camera to identify the size and species of approaching birds. The flap on the hole will only open for small birds. To scare away larger birds and squirrels, Aidan has added a robot with a scary head. He has priced his feeder at £122, although you will be pleased to learn that you can get 25% off if you buy it on a Tuesday. I should point out that this price is for a bird feeder made of wood. For those for whom money is no object, you can buy a glass version of the feeder for £6099, enabling you to view exactly what is happening inside. I must confess that I’m tempted to purchase but will have to save up for a VERY long time!

I was utterly spellbound by the ingenuity and creativity of all the designs, and it was wonderful to observe how the children modified their designs in response to constructive criticism from their peers. I’m certainly spoilt for choice. Which one would you choose?