What to Look For in a Bird Feeder

When you go shopping for wild bird feeders, you are likely to see quite a number of different styles and designs. The type of bird feeder that is best for you might depend on the type of bird you want to attract and how close you want to be to them in terms of an observer of their daily habits.

The most common types are ground feeder, seed tube feeder, hummingbird feeder, suet feeder, and oriole feeder.

Three bird feeders in a wooded setting

Weather is an issue with any decorative feature of a backyard or garden. Some metals are prone to -rust, and some woods are prone to rot. So how do you overcome this? Most metal bird feeders are anti-rust and there is the additional option of treating them with a waterproof oil or varnish to stop the elements from taking their toll.

Wooden garden decorations will most likely be made from cedar wood that contains their own natural weatherproof resins. These can also be treated with varnishes to give them further protection.

Putting up bird feeders and involving wildlife in a garden can make it seem more natural and a more enjoyable place to spend time.

Feeders also provide a more practical purpose. Providing nuts, seeds and bread for birds to eat will prevent them from eating the berries and flowers the garden owner is growing.

Attracting birds into the garden environment can mean that they will start to eat the slugs, worms and other garden pests most gardeners would rather be rid of.

Different Types of Wild Bird Feeders

Window Bird Feeders

For a real close up view of feeding birds you might want to consider window bird feeders. These types of bird feeders are attached to the window glass with suction cups. You can buy these types of feeders for smaller birds and also hummingbirds.

A window bird feeder with a bird perched on top of it.

Make sure this type of feeder extends far out enough away from the window so that the bird does not fly into the glass.

Steel Mesh Bird Feeder

The screen tray bird feeder, also known as steel mesh bird feeder, is a tubular silo that is filled with different types of seeds or nuts depending on what kind of bird you are most interested in attracting. These are hung from a tree and can also be popular with squirrels. The most popular type of food used to fill a screen tray bird feeder is peanuts. However they can also be filled with raisins, mealworms, black oil or sunflower seeds.

Steel mesh type bird feeder with birds eating at the station.

Note: If squirrels and other rodents are feasting too much on your bird seed you can also buy types of bird feeders that are the weight activated and spring shut once it detects the presence of a heavier small creature. You can also buy cage protected feeders or ones that are totally housed in metal. Other protective devices for your wild bird feeders include spinners, dippers and flippers. The purpose of these contraptions is to throw the squirrel off balance should it attempt to venture onto the feeding platform.

Platform Bird Feeders

A platform bird feeder is designed for birds who like to eat bird seed off of the ground.

They can be placed slightly above ground, or can be mounted off a deck, tree or stump. You can also order a platform pole mount to mount your platform bird feeder on a pole.

With a platform bird feeder the bird seed is placed on a platform, or a plate and the birds peck the food from a pile or scattering.

Platform bird feeders can also be squirrel proof. By having your platform bird feeder hang, squirrels are less likely to reach your bird seed.

Some platform bird feeders, or tray bird feeders, come with a screen big enough for the birds beaks, but too small for the hands of the squirrels. This is a great feature.

Platform type bird feeder in the winter.

Tray bird feeders, also know as ground bird feeders, are easy to maintain and clean, and will bring different types of birds to your backyard than that of a hanging bird feeder.

Hopper Bird Feeders

These feeders are a house-type shape where the seed in placed in a hopper slot in the middle of the container. It has a cover over it to protect the bird seed and the birds in inclement weather.

Hopper type bird feeder with bird seed inside

Seed Tube Feeders

These have a plastic tube with a lid, and the birds land next to the tube and use their beaks to get food from small openings.

Mainly these feeders are laden with various seeds to attract birds like chickadees, nuthatches, and finches.

They usually have a partition to segregate the different types of seeds.

Bird feeder is a tube type and is full of see with birds eating it

Decorative Bird Feeders

These are brightly painted because the purpose is to fool the bird into thinking they are feeding from a fruit tree. They are excellent for attracting songbirds, especially the oriole. To attract singing birds choose decorative birdhouses in colors such as yellow, orange, red or pink. These types of bird feeders are often made of plastic and might even seem a little tacky or not to your taste but it is this type of bird feeder that will appeal the most to different types of song birds, as well as hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Feeders

There are many different types of hummingbird feeders on the market. The most popular are the large pink plastic vessels shaped like large bulbs or blossoms. These types of bird feeders have tubes that allow the hummingbird to suck up nectar in the same way as he or she would suck up nectar from the throat of a flower. However if you really want to observe a hummingbird up close then you might want to install window feeders.

Red hummingbird feeder with a hummingbird eating

Use white granulated processed sugar to make the “nectar” solution that is particularly preferred by hummingbirds. Do not use dye in the recipes.

Oriole Feeders

These feeders are orange in color. They too supply a liquid form of nourishment. They specially cater to new world orioles, a species of birds having a uniquely pointed beak and tongue. Apart from the quality of the feed provided in a feeder, the success of a feeder largely depends on the strategic location on which it is placed, its remote proximity from intruders like squirrels and cats.

Suet Feeder

A suet feeder comprises of a cage like structure made of metal, coated with plastic. It is this plastic that contains a cake or suet. Suet is basically a bird feed containing animal fat, which prevent the feed from turning rancid and protect it from the adverse effects of moisture.

Also they could be hung from windows or any tree tops thus giving us a clear view of the birds in action. These bird feeders attract birds like woodpeckers and flickers.

Suet bird feeder with a bird eating

Homemade Wild Bird Feeders

If you want to attract wild birds, a wild bird feeder can be as simple as a wooden trough, a plastic plate set out on a table or a ball of suet hung in a tree. These should be placed some distance away from the house so the birds are not intimidated by a human presence.

You can make your own wild bird feeder from an milk carton that is glued to a paper plate. A little door cut out of the bottom of the carton serves as the dispenser for the food and the top of the carton is left, as it is so more food can be added to the feeder as needed.

The feeder is then hung in a tree with a long piece of invisible thread or skinny wire to discourage squirrels from getting at the food. This is one of those types of bird feeders that makes an ideal craft project for kids.

Hand-made bird feeder with plate and plywood hung in a tree

Favorite Foods of Wild Birds

What do the birds prefer at their feeding station? The most popular varieties of seeds include millet, safflower, sunflower, and thistle.

Each and every wild bird has their own favorite meals, but the popular sunflower seeds are known to be the favorite among seed-eater birds.

Meat-eating birds will prefer bird cake and a few birds like hummingbirds want a mixture of sugar and water (a kind of substitute nectar).

Some birds also like to eat fruit, so you might try leaving pieces of apple or orange in the mixture as well. If you're not sure which birds will come, then the best thing to do is to have a little of everything at first, and then see what is popular.

An orange on a board attached to a screw and a bird eating it.

Check the Label

Labels should be checked when buying seed mixes. If you want to attract a variety of wild birds to your feeders, stay away from wild bird mixes that contain oats, cereals or “mixed grains.” Most wild birds dislike these ingredients.

Avoid Fillers

Another tip is to avoid fillers such as the mixed grains. Some bird seed mixes contain filler seeds, which add weight to the bag, but usually end up in a pile under your bird feeder because birds know what they like, and it’s not fillers.

Birds often sweep their bills through their seed and dump the ones they don't want or they dislike on to the ground. Even ground-feeding birds may even ignore the spilled seed.

Select Clean Bags of Food

When purchasing wild bird seed, select clean bags of food. Most bird seed is 94% to 95% clean, which may sound pretty clean, but a 40-pound bag of seed may include over two pounds of inedible material, which means more debris that will find its way to the ground.

Some companies are required to sift the bird seed three times to remove any empty shells, sticks, leaves and other debris which is commonly found in seed bags.

In spite of the various advantages it offers to the birds, feeders still do have their own negative impacts on the bird community.

The water and feed if not maintained clean would lead to spread of diseases among birds as they come in contact with one another. It also leads to the growth of certain dominant species leading to an ecological imbalance.

A person hand-feeding a bird in the woods with a hand

So keep your bird feeders clean and seed fresh, and enjoy the calming benefits our avian friends provide. Keep on top of the latest bird news surrounding feeder safety to assure your efforts are making a positive effect on the planet.

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