Use these tips to choose the right bird feeder for your garden to keep the birds safe, happy, and well fed.
How to Choose a Bird Feeder
Bird Health & Safety
The best thing we can do to support wildlife including birds is to grow the plant species they need for food (mostly bugs and seeds) and habitat along with fresh water, avoid the use of any pollutants, pesticides, and herbicides, and let the garden get “messy” to provide the dead and decaying matter that supports life.
While bird feeders are enjoyable for us, they are not necessary for bird survival. If you do have them, keep them clean and disinfected and remove them if there are reports or signs of any communicable diseases.
- The style of bird feeder you use can determine which birds can and cannot use them.
- An easy-to-clean and fill feeder makes it much more likely that you’ll keep them clean and disinfected.
- I’ve never found the perfect feeder but some of the ones shown below are quite good.
- Besides being easy to manage, they are a bit of an investment, so I expect them to last for years to come.
- My best ones are made of metal, and some have plastic parts. There are some excellent wooden ones but often they are not as long-lasting as the metal ones and they are difficult to disinfect.
Here are some favorite moments at my backyard bird feeders:
Types of Feeders
1Tray or Platform Feeders
Platform Bird Feeder | Amazon
- These are open feeders that can be placed close to the ground, mounted on stumps or legs, or suspended from a hook or branch.
- Birds can easily access the food, but so can squirrels and other animals, and they leave the feed exposed to the elements, which means you need to clean it daily.
- You often see large tray feeders like this one used for bird cam sites because they are open and roomy, accessible to a variety of birds.
Attracts: sparrows, jays, juncos, towhees, mourning doves.
Cons: Wooden feeders are not easy to disinfect. Also, open-style feeders cause seed to rot faster due to exposure to rain.
Related: How to Attract Birds to Your Feeder
- These feeders are better for protecting seed from the elements, to help prevent mold or rot.
- Suspended from poles or tree branches or mounted on stumps, these feeders are good for larger species.
Attracts: cardinals, jays, grosbeaks.
- There are different types of tube feeders depending on the birds you want to attract and the size of the seed offered.
- Some are intended for medium and small birds who eat mixed birdseed.
Mine attract finches, chickadees, titmice, and cardinals, both based on the seed offered and how easy it is to perch.
- There are also the long, narrow feeders with small ports made for nijer seed, which is a tiny seed. This helps avoid waste and offers it just to the smaller birds like goldfinches.
Attracts: various finches, particularly goldfinches if nijer seed is served.
I’ve never found a truly squirrel-proof feeder, but you can definitely slow down their birdseed consumption.
- There are squirrel-proof feeders available in both hopper and tube styles.
- I consider it unethical to do anything that hurts or harms them, like oiling poles with Vaseline or vegetable oil, or adding cayenne pepper to feed (it can burn their eyes just like it does ours), so I just do things to slow them down and make it harder to climb to the feeders.
- Most squirrels can jump up four feet and leap across ten feet, so, if possible, place your feeders up and away from jumping points.
- I’ve got a huge squirrel population here and eventually a few clever squirrels figure out how to get some seed. Twice they have broken the hopper-style feeders guaranteed to keep them away (fail). They also find ways to suspend upside-down and reach into the tube feeders without triggering the weight-sensitive ports, although I’d say these are still worth the investment because it does minimize how much they can take.
- You can also add a squirrel baffle to the pole. I’ve always used a slinky on the pole, but the squirrels eventually figure out a way to climb around it.
Related: Get a Backyard Bird Cam
I have not tried this product, but I have seen others say this addition to a feeder pole makes it impossible for the squirrels to climb up to the feeder. But, you still have to make sure the feeder is not within jumping distance from the ground or a fence.
The pole baffle is another option. I always think there must be a household item I can use instead of buying one. The outer edge of the flared part needs to be far enough from the pole that the squirrel can’t reach it.
I’ve seen raccoons get around both of these baffles.
This cage-style of bird feeder is fairly popular, but I don’t like them. The little birds go inside to get food, but, if they are startled, they can injure themselves trying to get away quickly.
Attracting Wild Birds to Your Garden
- Avoid the use of any products toxic to birds and their food sources including caterpillars.
- Grow plants, trees and shrubs for habitat and be messy: dead and decaying things nourish life.
- Keep pets out of your garden.
- Choose plants that provide food, nectar, or habitat for other living things.
- Birdhouses: Use as decoration only.
- Nesting Box Tips and Nesting Box Plans: Choose species-specific designs.
- Bird Feed: Provide nutritious food and fresh, clean water.
- Bird Feeders: Clean frequently. Remove feeders immediately if you notice any sign of disease or problems like salmonella, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, or avian pox are reported in your area.
Remove feeders and stop hand-feeding birds if there are known outbreaks of pathogenic diseases spreading throughout wild bird populations.
TIP: Use a motion-sensitive wildlife camera in your garden to see what goes on when you’re not there.
Watch Bird Cameras
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛