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Bird Feeder Buying Guide

Bird Feeders

Bird feeders are an important supplemental source of food for birds. The type of feeder you choose and the feed you provide determine the type of birds that are attracted.

Bird Feeder Basics

No matter what type of feeder you choose, there are a few basics to keep in mind:

  • Wooden parts of feeders should be made of weather-resistant cedar or be stained or painted to protect against moisture.
  • Feeders should be easy to clean.
  • Plastic feeders should be reinforced with metal around the feeding ports to discourage squirrels. Perches should be metal or a replaceable dowel.
  • Look for durable construction to provide you and your birds years of enjoyment.

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Types of Bird Feeders

Three basic types of bird feeders are available: hopper, tube and platform. Any feeder you buy should be easy to fill, empty and clean. Style variations are available in all three types:

Hopper Feeders

Hopper feeders have a lot of different styles, but the basic style looks like a barn, gazebo or covered bridge:

  • Hopper feeders hold a lot of seed, eliminating the need to fill them daily.
  • The lift-off roofs make them easy to refill.
  • Any type of bird feed can be used in a hopper feeder.
  • The sides are usually panels of Plexiglas, so you can see when the feeder needs a refill of seed.
  • Small and large birds such as doves, jays, grosbeaks, cardinals and woodpeckers can land and feed comfortably.
  • Hopper feeders can be pole-mounted or hung from a tree limb or hook.
  • Look for a hopper feeder that can be disassembled and cleaned.

Tube Feeders
  • Tube feeders are long cylinders with perches at the feeding ports. Tube feeders are available in upside-down and seed tray models: Tube feeders discourage squirrels.
  • Tube feeders are usually used for small woodland birds like chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, nuthatches and finches.
  • The perches on tube feeders are small and discourage large birds such as cardinals, blue jays, grackles, blackbirds and doves.
  • Tube feeders usually have holes large enough for sunflower seeds to fit through. Some tube feeders are made especially for tiny thistle or niger seeds.
  • Make sure there is no dead space at the bottom port. Seed can collect, rot and mold.

Platform Bird Feeder

Platform feeders may be pole-mounted, hung or placed on the ground on fold-out legs:

  • Ground platform feeders are excellent for attracting ground feeding birds such as doves, juncos and sparrows.
  • Any type of bird feed can be used in a platform feeder to attract a variety of birds.

Specialized Bird Feeders

Look for feeders that are designed to attract a specific type of bird. For example, hummingbird and bluebird feeders are only accessible by these birds. These feeders, like other styles, are usually designed to be squirrel-resistant.

Attracting Birds

Feeding in the warm months can encourage some birds to nest nearby, and many birds take on their most colorful plumage during the breeding season. Regardless of whether you feed only during the winter or year-round, be consistent with your feeding regimen. It is only fair to those birds who have come to rely on your feeders as a source of food.

Summer feeding requirements are slightly different from those of winter. When feeding birds, be sure that during the winter months your feeders are not left empty as birds will rely on this food.

  • Suet is a common winter feed. It is an attractive food for many birds, especially when offered with seeds, but it can quickly melt or go bad in the summer. 
  • Sunflower seeds can also spoil and should be used sparingly. 
  • Any bird feed should be protected from moisture at all times since the presence of moisture can contribute to spoilage. 
  • Always be sure to keep your houses and feeders clean to encourage frequent visits.

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