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Illinois hunting and fishing

Dan Greene looks over his large birdfeeder at his home in Keister, W. Va. Greene decided he needed a larger bird feeder to improve his overall bird-watching experience. Photo by Kenny Kemp via The Associated Press.

Man builds giant bird feeder

January 30, 2012 at 06:02 PM

The Associated Press

KEISTER, W.Va. (AP) — With a large front deck and a glass-walled living room facing the Greenbrier River and the forested slopes surrounding it, Dan Greene’s cabin at the remote Greenbrier Community of Keister is a great place for watching birds.

And Greene, a retired elementary school science teacher, has spent a fair amount of his free time doing just that.

“I’m no expert birder, but I have fun sitting here keeping track of the birds I can recognize that come to the feeder,” he said.

Earlier this winter, Greene, who takes part in the annual National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count and the West Virginia Winter Bird Count, decided he needed a larger bird feeder to enhance his citizen science projects and improve his overall bird-watching experience. His previous feeder was lantern-sized, with only a couple of feeding portals, and required frequent refilling.

“So I did a Web search for a large bird feeder, and a picture of the world’s largest bird feeder popped up,” he said.

A narrow, rectangular, clear plastic feeder erected at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Research Farm in Leicestershire, England, in 2009, was recognized as a Guinness World Record in the largest bird feeder by volume category in February 2009. It holds 97 kilograms, or 213 pounds, 13 ounces of birdseed.

In September of 2009, the same British organization erected a feeder holding 254 kilograms, or 559.974 pounds of seed, in an attempt to break its own record, but for whatever reason, the 97-kilogram feeder continues to be listed as the official record-holder on the Guinness website.

While Greene was initially seeking a feeder only incrementally larger than his own, he gazed at the online image of the tall, transparent, nontraditional British feeder, and came to an unexpected conclusion.

“I can do better than that,” he said.

He enlisted the help of a carpenter friend, Chris Ide of Smoot, and began planning a bid to bring the global big birdhouse crown back to the United States (a Maine bird feeder held the previous record).

“I wanted to make something that was practical, as well as a world record,” said Greene. He also wanted to build something that looked more like a classic bird feeder than the current Guinness record-holder.

The core of Greene’s new bird feeder is a four-foot cube divided into eight compartments, allowing a variety of seeds and seed blends to be used.

“I wanted to be able to experiment a little, and see what the birds want to eat,” he said.

The floors of the seed compartments are sloped to allow seeds to flow into feeding portals, automatically replenishing them as seed is consumed. A sloped metal roof mounted atop the bin keeps the seed dry, and brings the feeder’s height up to six feet.

A pair of circular stained glass windows at the top of the feeder can be popped out to accommodate the refilling of storage bins below. A web of steel cable is bolted to the feeder and attached to a ring above the structure, which in turn is connected to a pulley-assisted chain hoist, allowing Greene to lower the feeder for refills and raise it out of the reach of raiding raccoons.

The bird feeder Greene and Ide produced was stained the same dark brown tint as Greene’s cabin and outbuildings, and topped with the same style of metal roof. Earlier this month, they invited a group of about 20 friends to Keister to celebrate the feeder’s completion, help fill it with seed, and watch it be hoisted into place.

“We put in 760 pounds of seed,” said Greene. “It could have held a little more.”

When the weight of the wood and metal of the feeder itself is factored in, Greene’s bird feeder tips the scales at about 940 pounds.

The feeder-raising party helped Greene fulfill a Guinness World Record requirement that the feeder’s dimensions, completion, placement and functionality be videotaped and witnessed by a certain number of observers. Video footage, still photos and signed statements from witnesses will be forwarded to Guinness in an effort to have the Keister bird feeder recognized as the world’s largest.

“It could take months to get everything documented,” Greene said, “but I feel sure we’ve broken the record.”

With the massive feeder now dangling from its support cables a short distance off his deck, Greene’s population of winter birds to watch has grown substantially.

“I’ve had 20 or 30 goldfinches at a time feeding here, and no problems with raccoons or bear,” he said.

Entrees available at the feeder’s 40 dining ports and attached auxiliary feeders include millet, thistle seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, shelled sunflower seeds, mealworms and suet.

At a seed-bearing picnic table a few feet away from the feeder, Greene has seated a mannequin with a bearded face, wearing a plaid shirt and floppy hat much like his. “He looks like me, only a little slimmer,” he said. “The birds have gotten used to seeing a human form sitting here, so I can sit in a chair next to this guy, and the birds will land on the table right in front of me, until they figure out I’m alive.”

Greene, whose main residence is in White Sulphur Springs, visits the feeder, and his cabin at Keister, nestled between the Greenbrier River and Greenbrier River Trail, nearly every day.

“Watching birds is a great way to connect with nature,” he said.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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