Bird Feeder Choices

By   January 18, 2016

Selecting a bird feeder is a bit more complicated than it appears.  Your choice of style and where it’s placed can make a big difference in what type of birds show up for dinner.

Some birds prefer to feed on the ground.  Mourning doves, sparrows, juncos, and towhees fit in this category.  You might see them on a hanging feeder once in a while, but their body shape and vision make ground feeding their top choice.

Cardinals, finches, and Jay’s prefer a table feeder.  That’s a stable and open platform.  They too will visit a hanging feeder once in a while but probably won’t stay long.  Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens are tree feeders.  They naturally prefer to eat on the side of a tree.  Hanging feeders are best for titmice, goldfinches, and chickadees.

Choice of food can also make a big difference in what types of birds accept your dinner invitation.  Some like larger seeds, some like different kinds, and some prefer fruit or fat (suet) over seed.  We’ll write a separate post on seed types later.

Going off topic for a moment, More important than what birds like are the foods that are harmful or dangerous to birds.  Bread and crackers are at the top of this list.  They like to eat it, but there’s not enough calories and nutrition in them for their health.  Birds need a lot of energy to survive, and bread fills them up without providing enough energy in return.  Avoid anything with chocolate too as it’s toxic to them (and dogs too).  And be careful with food scraps.  Although the birds mike like them, they can also attract predators and vermin.

My personal preference is to avoid bird seed that contains cracked corn, milo, or wheat.  These are inexpensive fillers that are often added to bargain seed mixtures.  Although some birds will eat them, most will just toss it to the ground.  And cracked corn or anything ground tends to cake up when they get wet, making a mess of your feeder and eventually rotting.

Bird Feeder Styles

There are several styles of feeders available to fill these different needs:

A covered table type bird feeder.

A covered table type bird feeder.

Tray or table feeders are simply platforms to hold the seed.  Some have a roof, but the sides are open.  Many types of birds are wary of roof models; they feel safer when they can see the sky.  The downside to tray feeders is that they are open.  You might also be feeding mice, squirrels, raccoons, and others.




A hopper type bird feeder filled with striped sunflower seeds.

A hopper type bird feeder filled with striped sunflower seeds.

Hopper feeders hold extra seed inside and are often hung off the ground for protection.  The convenience of having extra seed in the hopper has to be balanced with the task of keeping them clean.  Seed in the hopper, especially milled or cracked grains, can rot and make a mess.  Hopper feeders are the most popular and attract a wide variety of birds including buntings, finches, jay’s, starlings, sparrows, chickadees, grosbeaks, and titmice.

    • Window feeders are small, usually plastic, feeders that attach to a window with suction cups.  They’re great for viewing but need frequent attention.


A tube type bird feeder with a table feeder and hopper feeder in the background.

A tube type bird feeder with a table feeder and hopper feeder in the background.

Tube feeders are metal or plastic tubes that attract tree feeding birds.  Some are screened; others have feeding ports.  It’s interesting that some birds eat facing up the tree or feeder while others eat facing down.  Tube feeders may have perches or screen webs for holding on to either above or below the feeding ports.

Some birds like thistle or Niger seed that is very fine.  There are specialized feeders designed for them.


Suet is fat, and necessary food for some birds who’s diet is based on bugs.  A suet feeder is often a wire or mesh cage that holds the suet up off the ground and away from vermin.  Mesh onion bags make good suet feeders.  My preference is an inexpensive wire cage that contains preformed blocks of fat.

One Comment on “Bird Feeder Choices

  1. Guest Author

    It’s a sad fact but the closest many of us get to experiencing the natural world is when we tune into the Discovery Channel. Nature and animals are something alien to many people. With more of us living in urban areas, we’ve become detached from nature that is unfortunate. Despite this, there are many ways to get a real-life experience of nature. Even if you live in a built-up area or have a small garden or yard outside your home, garden products like a window bird feeder and other outdoor accessories attract and cater for many of our local feathered friends.

    Some window bird feeders bring nature right to your home without even going outside. Once you have one of these feeders, you’ll be amazed at all of the wildlife that exists outside your window sill. In most cases, you probably don’t realize just how many species of birds are in your area.

    People with limited garden space want to be able to maximize this area. Bird feeders make this possible. They’re not just an attractive outdoor feature. They’re also entertaining and educational especially if you’ve got young kids in your home. It may even awaken the amateur bird watcher in you especially if you start to see some winged creatures you don’t recognize.

    Many of the window bird feeders available include mirrors to add to the entertainment. With this type of feeder feature, you can see each bird, but they can’t see you. This gives you an extremely close-up view of these animals. The location of a feeder is also important and needs to be located in an area where birds have easy access to it. Feeders should also be in a place where your new feathered friends are at less risk of attack from predators or away from garden pests such as squirrels.

    Having birds coming right up to your window is priceless, and it’s also extremely affordable to buy and install these products. Feeders range in price from a few bucks to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on the type you want. The more protection and features you need, the more you’ll be paying but no matter what you spend on these products, they’ll repay you many times over in entertainment and educational value.

    So is this a lazy way to connect with nature, or is it a relaxing and easy way to find out more about the everyday lives of animals that exist in your area. As our lives get busier, we may not have enough spare time to dedicate to this type of pass time, but by just buying a window bird feeder you can make this happen. Feeding birds takes very little time, and this is also a relatively affordable way to be entertained and make your garden a better place to be. The main work involved is setting up the feeder. Once fitted, you just need to make sure you add enough seeds to keep birds fed, so they keep coming back to your window.

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