How To: Build a Tui Feeder (prototype)

This weekend’s project was to build a prototype (tui) bird feeder. The design took in the following considerations:

  1. Birds like to perch and crap. Therefore a solid base is not ideal.
  2. A bird-feeder will attract cats, particularly in Eden Terrace. It cannot be enclosed.
  3. Generally NZ birds are nectar feeders (because of the warmer winter climate). The feeder needs to supply nectar supplement rather than seeds and grain.
  4. Tui in particular thrive on an especially made sugar solution comprising one part sugar and two parts water. This however will ferment after a couple of days. So the feeder needs to be easily accessible for regular restocking.

With this in mind we headed out to Kumeu Hardware Supplies to source some scrap plywood and begin construction.

Bird feeder components:

  • 2 420 x 180 mm plywood (for the roof)
  • 2 350 x 200 mm plywood (for the sides)
  • 2 80mm x 300 mm plywood (for bracing to mount on fence/post/tree)
  • 1 110mm x 16 mm Dowel
  • PVA glue, nails, and a couple of long wooden screws for mounting

Tools used:

  • Drill press
  • Electric drill
  • Jig saw
  • Compound saw


  1. Cut plywood to specified size
  2. Draw out inside shape for side panels. To cut the inside hole we first drilled 25mm holes in the corners with a drill press, and then used a jigsaw to cut out the shape.
    Tui Feeder Shape Cut Out Tui Feeder Inside Side holes Cut Out
  3. Drill three holes in the bottom of the side pieces for the dowel.
  4. Glue and nail together the roof at a 90 degree angle.
    Building the Tui Feeder Roof
  5. Pre-drill holes, and glue and nail together bracing and sides.
    Assembling the back bracing
  6. Insert and fix perches
    Afix the dowel
  7. Glue, pre-drill and nail on roof to base.
    Attaching the Roof for the Tui Feeder The last step, nailing on the roof...
  8. Attach finished bird-feeder to post, tree, or fence in back-yard
  9. Add a container of sugar solution, and a couple of pieces of over-ripe fruit and wait for tui.

Pretty soon afterwards the bird-feeder was investigated by an army of wax-eye birds.

Although I haven’t noticed any other birds visit it yet, I already see a couple of minor changes will be required for the beta version:

  • There needs to be a mesh underneath the bottom perches, and/or they need to be closer together, so the fruit doesn’t slip through once it is pecked at.
  • The birds land on the roof, but are then hesitant to go underneath, as they can’t see what is there. This is particularly applicable to tui, who tend to be more cautious. The roof should only be a partial cover, with the remainder consisting of perches.
  • Lots of perches are good, and allows the more submissive birds to wait their turn while the aggressive ones gorge themselves into a sugary stupor.

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9 Responses to How To: Build a Tui Feeder (prototype)

  1. Pingback: Fermenting Coke » Ramblings from Eden Terrace

  2. Ross says:

    am interested in your tui feeder. We have tuis and many other birds which we feed but have never been sure what sort of container to use for the tui. what did you put the sugar solution in (mainly to stop other birds using as bath) regards

  3. michelle says:

    A small glass (or jar), did the trick. It needs to be firmly mounted though – ours is wedged in between two perches.

  4. Pingback: Psychedelic Bird » Ramblings from Eden Terrace

  5. Clint says:

    Do you have many problems with bees & wasps around the sugar water?

  6. michelle says:

    No, the birds finish it off, before the bees/wasps get a chance.

  7. watties says:

    Hi Have just place a large bamboo stem with the pockets cut out in a banksia tree and had tui feeding within 2 days!
    Check out
    Valda(garden owner) was more than helpful with tips.

  8. Ella says:

    Hi, this might be a silly question but can you paint the feeder? Also, is it ok for other birds too?

  9. David says:

    We were feeding the tui simply with a deep dish filled with the sugar solution but whilst birds werent actually trying to bathe in it, it was getting splashed around quite a bit and it would be needing a top up within an hour or so. I noticed at Zealandia in Wellington that they were feeding kaka with a regular water bottle as you would use for pet rabbits. The tui were also finding ways to get to this source so I thought I would try and see if the tui in our garden would be able to figure out how to use this kind of feeder.
    The bottle is filled with the solution of sugar and water and the cap incorporates a steel tube with a ball bearing at the end. The bottle is inverted and the weight of the liquid pushes the ball bearing to the end of the tube which keeps it sealed.
    The Tui lick the ball bearing or push it with the end of their beak and have no problems. They seem to be able to get through about a litre or so of the solution in a day with very little wasted.

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