There is a wide selection of feeder types to consider in establishing your first feeding station. Different types of feeders require varying levels of care and attract different species. Consider several different types of feeders to maximize the variety of birds you attract.
When purchasing a new feeder, start by selecting one that is easy to fill and easy to clean. Weather resistant cedar or redwood is a good choice for wooden feeders but other types of wood are acceptable. Avoid chemically treated lumber. The types of birds that show up at your feeder will also vary by your location and the time of year.
Important: If your feeder will be located near trees or you have seen squirrels in your area be prepared to deal with them at some point. They can be extremely determined and can consume a large amount of your feed. We cover dealing with squirrels in another section but it is a good idea to keep them in mind when planning your feeding station or backyard environment.
The list below provides a quick reference to the basic feeder types.
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Ground feeding is the easiest and quickest way to get started. Spreading seed, cracked corn, bread crumbs, raisins and peanuts can attract a variety of species. The area should be dry and the ground feeding area rotated every several days unless it can be washed down. It is best not to add additional feed below hanging feeders. Do not put out more than one day supply of food. (Time and experience will help you establish the correct amount.)
Attracted Species: Sparrows, doves, quail, towhees, flickers, thrashers, juncos, cardinals
Platform feeders are easy to maintain and attract a wide variety of species. Long, narrow platforms encourage birds to feed from the edge, limiting contamination of the station. A wide variety of seed, nuts, fruit, and egg shells can be used on a platform feeder. Keep the platform clean and put out only a 1 or 2 day supply of food at a time. Some platform feeders have a second, often wire mesh platform below for catching hulls and uneaten seed.
Attracted Species: Sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blackbirds, wrens, cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, tanagers, orioles, cardinals
Hopper feeders are a popular design. They are usually easy to fill and easy to clean. They also do well in attracting a variety of species. The one shown below is a typical design but far from the only one.
Watch for mold growing in feed that has been in a hopper feeder for an extended period. Clean hopper feeders on a regular basis.
Hopper feeders can be difficult to protect from squirrel attacks from above. If your feeder will be within 8 feet of a tree or overhanging branch you may wish to consider a squirrel-proof design.
Attracted Species: Sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blackbirds, cardinals, jays, grosbeaks, buntings, cardinals
Tube feeders are short to long cylinders with multiple perches and feeding ports. They provide several days supply of food and are usually easy to fill. Tube feeders usually attract finches, titmice, chickadees and pine siskins so it is best to select food suited for these species.
There are typically two types of tube feeders:
- Thistle feeders: for feeding the small Nyjer® or thistle seed, used for feeding finches
- Mixed seed feeders: For feeding sunflower or mixed seeds
There are different tube feeder designs and materials. If there are squirrels in your area, you will want to purchase a metal feeder with a locking top, or the squirrels will invite themselves to the party.
Attracted species: Finches, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers and pine siskins
Dome feeders are large globes that are somewhat selective in the birds they attract. They are often not as attractive to house sparrows and house finches, which can be a plus if these species tend to overrun your other feeders.
Attracted species: Chickadees, titmice, goldfinches and nuthatches
Suet can be fed in several ways but a simple wire cage is easy to use and inexpensive to purchase. Suet cakes are readily available and fit into what has become almost a standard sized holder.
Some suet feeders have a “tail prop” extension to accommodate woodpeckers. Other feeders are designed to force the bird to feed upside down, a snap for chickadees and nuthatches but an effective approach to elimination house sparrows and starlings.
Attracted species: Woodpeckers, chickadees, creepers, jays, nuthatches, wrens, bluebirds, mockingbirds
Nectar Feeders – Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders are available in many different styles. Select one that is easy to clean and fill. A simple mixture of sugar and water is all that is required; red food coloring is not recommended. The hummingbird page has the simple formula for making your own sugar water and additional information for this popular family of birds.
Nectar feeders are popular in areas with orioles and tanagers and these colorful species can brighten any backyard. Nectar mixes for orioles are commercially available or you can use a standard hummingbird mixture of sugar and water. Regular hummingbird feeders are also sometimes visited by orioles and tanagers if they have a place to land.
Attracted species: Hummingbirds, orioles, tanagers, sometimes woodpeckers
Oranges, grapefruit, apples and raisins are all popular with the fruit eaters. Split oranges and grapefruit in half and hang on the side of a tree or mount with one of the commercial feeders. Apples can be chopped up or placed in specially designed holders. Raisins can be chopped up and softened in water before feeding. Some find that a serving of grape jelly is welcomed by certain species.
Attracted species: Orioles, tanagers, woodpeckers, thrashers, bluebirds, mockingbirds