Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Choosing the Right Bird Feeder

Choosing the Right Bird Feeder

Walking out on my back deck at 7 a.m. and hearing the happy chirping of the birds I have drawn into my yard makes the perfect start to my day.

Every yard may have a few feathery visitors, but creating a bird haven takes a bit more work and time.  

Choosing the right bird feeder to draw in the birds you want in your yard is a good first step.  

Here's a list of the six most common types of bird feeders and their advantages and disadvantages.

You can click on the photos for more information about each of them.

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The Tray or Platform Feeder

Trays attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds, including pigeons, starlings, and House Sparrows, but also grosbeaks and native sparrows. 

Tray feeders offer no protection against rain and snow and some have no drainage.  Bird droppings can quickly soil the seed in tray feeders.

The best tray feeders have a screen rather than solid bottom to promote complete drainage.  At the very least, tray feeders should have several drainage holes. 

Even with drainage, though, the bottom should be removable for frequent cleaning. It is a good idea to only offer enough seed in tray feeders for birds to finish every day or two, and shake out the bottom every time you add new seeds.

A disadvantage is that tray feeders are an open invitation to squirrels and chipmunks unless they are constructed with an effective squirrel baffle on the pole or suspension chain.

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In addition to squirrels, deer, raccoons and other critters, tray feeders placed near the ground are most likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows.

Tray feeders can be mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps, or can be suspended. Some models have a roof to provide at least some protection from the weather.

Hopper or House Feeders
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Hopper feeders are attractive to finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice, however, frequent visitors are squirrels so, some sort of squirrel baffle is important.

There is no protection against rain, so, again, if the seed gets wet,  fungus and bacteria can thrive.   Some house feeders, though, do have a little more protection from the rain.

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And although these hopper feeders hold enough seed to last for several days, that becomes dangerous for the birds if the seed is allowed to get wet.

Tube Feeders

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Hollow tubed feeders can keep seeds fairly clean.  Depending on the size of the perches under the feeding ports, these feeders can attract small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches while excluding larger species such as grackles and jays. 

Styles with perches above the feeding ports are designed for seed-eating birds that can feed hanging upside down.  These birds include goldfinches and chickadees.

Some tube feeders have a cage around the tube making it more difficult for the squirrels to raid the seed.

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You can also buy brackets that will allow some open space making it more difficult for squirrels.

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Tube feeders that accommodate a dozen or more birds are best used during times when many birds are using them. When only a handful of birds are using them, a smaller model is best so the seed is used up frequently.

Tip:  When adding new seed to tube feeders, always empty the old seed out first.

Window Feeders

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Window feeders are small, plastic feeders affixed to window glass with suction cups.  They are very easy to clean, but the seed should be replaced daily as the seed risks becoming soiled.  

Window feeders are popular since they give adults and children alike the opportunity to observe birds up close.  

The window feeders attract titmice, finches, chickadees, and some sparrows. 

Nyjer Feeders (Thistle Feeders)

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The above feeder is basically a tube feeder with very small feeding ports.

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The second type of thistle feeder pictured above are the fine-mesh socks that the birds cling to as they feed.  Squirrels aren't particularly attracted to Nyjer seed, so there usually isn't a squirrel problem with them.

Nyher Seed click to View

Both types of nyher feeders are appropriate when you have enough finches to consume the contents in a few days.

These feeders are popular with American Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls. 

Suet Feeders

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Suet feeders attract a variety of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. 

Some Suet cages open only at the bottom which forces birds to hang upside down while feeding.  This design will usually exclude starlings, which have trouble perching that way.

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There are suet feeders with a surrounding cage, as pictured above, which may be a safer way of offering suet.

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Suet cakes come in a variety of flavors.  They are also available in a "no "melt variety.


What a joy it is to wake up to a symphony of chirping and singing birds.  I hope this article was helpful to you in deciding which feeder to buy to bring them to your yard!

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