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Bird Feeder Buying Guide

The type of feeder you choose and the feed you provide determines the type of birds that are attracted.

Bird Feeder Buying Guide

Bird Feeding Basics

Bird Bath

Birds require only three things to encourage them to return to your location: fresh water to drink and to bathe, plenty of cover to nest and to hide and a variety of quality food to eat.

  • Any feeder you buy should be easy to fill, empty and clean.
  • Plastic feeders should be reinforced with metal around the feeding ports to discourage squirrels. Perches should be metal or a replaceable dowel.
  • Wooden parts of feeders should be made of weather-resistant cedar or be stained or painted to protect against moisture.
  • Add a convenient water source, like a birdbath or a water feature, to your landscape to attract a larger number and variety of birds.
  • Nest boxes or birdhouses will encourage birds to stay and raise their families near your home. In addition, birds require protection from their natural enemies, so feeding areas should be out of the reach of cats and other predators.

Approximately 1 billion birds die from flying into windows each year. Reduce the risk of bird collisions by placing the feeder less than 3 feet from a window or more than 30 feet away. Mobiles, opaque decorations and fruit tree netting outside windows also helps to deflect birds from the glass.

Selecting Bird Feeders

Hopper Feeder

Choose the kind of feeder that will accommodate the specific types of birds you want to attract or birds native to your area. Choosing more than one feeder will help attract more species and avoid feeder congestion.

Ground or Platform Feeders
These are screen-bottomed trays sit close to the ground. They prevent the seeds and bird droppings from touching one another. You can also purchase ground feeders that have wire mesh to prevent rodents and large birds from stealing food. In order to prevent predators from getting the birds, ground feeders should be placed in open areas that are at least 10 feet from shrubs or trees. If you or your neighbors have cats that are outside, do not use this type of feeder.
Birds That Love Them: Cardinals, doves, goldfinches, juncos, sparrows, and towhees

Hopper Feeders
Hopper feeders can hold several pounds of mixed seed dry and ready for hungry birds. They just hop on the feeder trigger to release the seeds. Hang hopper feeders from a tree branch or use a pole about 5 feet off the ground.
Birds That Love Them: cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, grackles, jays, nuthatches, purple and house finches, redwinged blackbirds, siskins and titmice

Hummingbird Feeders
Mount hummingbird feeders in the shade to help prevent the food from spoiling and within 3 feet of a window for best viewing. The birds will quickly get comfortable enough to feed and be watched up close. Keeping a feeder near your house also reduces injuries to birds caused by flying into the reflective window since they can't build up enough speed to hurt themselves.

Nyjer® Feeders
These feeders are specially designed to distribute nyjer (thistle) seed. They have tiny holes that make the seed available only to small-beaked birds. Place it on a 5-foot pole or hang it from a tree. To protect your feeder from squirrels, use a baffle.���
Birds That Love Them: goldfinches, pine siskins, redpolls

Suet Feeders
You can purchase a special feeder or you can hang suet���chunks in a mesh onion bag. Feeders can be hung from poles near other feeders or from trees. Some people make their own suet puddings by taking a large pine cone and stuffing a mixture of ground suet and seeds in the crevices.
Birds That Love Them: Chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers really like it. Creepers, warblers and wrens occasionally peck at it.

Squirrel Feeders
If you’re having issues with the squirrels eating all your bird food, consider a squirrel feeder. Stock them with blends that are especially attractive to squirrels and chipmunks. It can reduce competition for high-priced foods offered at bird feeders. Locate squirrel feeders far from bird feeders to further reduce temptation.

Sunflower and Seed-Tube Feeders
If you’re only going to hang one bird feeder, this is the one to purchase. Position it near a window so you can enjoy your guests. The feeder should be at least five feet off the ground. Reduce the risk of a bird colliding into the window by placing the feeder less than 3 feet from a window or more than 30 feet away. Select one that has metal ports around the seed dispensers to protect the feeder from unwanted visitors.
Birds That Love Them: chickadees, goldfinches, house finches, nuthatches, siskins, purple finches and titmice

Good to Know

Make sure the selected feeder is maintained year-round, especially in harsh winter climates that make natural food sources hard to find. Birds typically burn more calories in winter to stay warm. For example, chickadees have to eat 20 times more in winter than in summer.

Good to Know

To prevent squirrels from eating all the birds’ food, place your feeder on a���pole in an open area. Pole-mounted feeders should be about 5 feet off the ground and protected by a cone-shaped baffle (at least 17 inches in diameter) or similar obstacle below the feeder. Locate pole-mounted feeders at least 10 feet from the nearest shrub, tree or other tall structure. If all of this doesn’t work, consider purchasing a squirrel feeder.

Selecting Bird Food


The benefits of bird feeding are two-fold. It provides a welcome supplement to a bird’s diet and offers hours of great bird watching for you. Bird food comes in several forms: nectar, seed and suet. What types of birds are you hoping to attract? This will affect the type of food you select.

Cracked Corn
Ground-feeding birds like the medium-cracked corn, but beware. The kernel tends to soak up moisture so it’s prone to rot. Use a watertight hopper feeder or mix small amounts with millet on feeding tables. Small-beaked birds can’t consume coarse-cracked corn because it’s too large. Fine-cracked corn quickly turns to mush so its best to avoid altogether.
Birds That Love It: crows, doves, jays, juncos, pheasants, quail, sparrows, and towhees.

Red millet is widely popular. But white millet is the food of choice for most small-beaked ground-feeding birds.
Birds That Love it: cowbirds, doves, juncos, quail, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows and towhees

Milo, Wheat and Oats
Most birds don’t really like them. They’re often added into cheap bird seed blends. Birds discard them, which often attracts rodents.
Birds That Love It: doves, pheasants, and quail

Nyjer® (Thistle)
It’s often referred to as black gold because of its hefty price tag. It’s often confused with prickly thistle, a weed that goldfinches use to line their nests.
Birds That Love It: American goldfinches, house finches, lesser goldfinches and common redpolls

The best way to serve these up is in a tube-shaped metal mesh feeder. The peanuts can be crushed or whole.
Birds That Love It: brown creepers, brown thrashers, chickadees, jays, kinglets, northern mockingbirds, nuthatches, pine warblers, starlings, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers, and yellow-rumped warblers

Squirrels, house sparrows and starlings don’t enjoy safflower as much as sunflower seed. But there are others that do.
Birds That Love It: Cardinals, doves, grosbeaks, and sparrows

Suet and Bird Puddings (Beef Fat and Seed)
Insect-eating birds particularly like this mixture. It helps to fatten them up for cold and harsh weather. You’ll need to get a special suet feeder that is at least 5 feet off the ground so that rodents can’t get to it.
Birds That Love It: chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers and wrens

Sunflower Seed
Hulled sunflower seed is eaten by the largest variety of birds. Large-beaked birds prefer the striped ones. Small feeders birds enjoy the black-oil seeds.
Birds That Love It: chickadees, evening grosbeaks, finches, grackles, goldfinches, jays, northern cardinals, nuthatches, pine grosbeaks, red-bellied woodpeckers, and titmice

Good to Know

Store bird seed and mixes in a cool and dry location in a plastic container. In areas where mice or squirrels might be attracted to the food, use a metal container.

Good to Know

Change hummingbird nectar once a week to keep the food fresh.

Providing Water for Birds

Many bird lovers always remember to refill their bird feeders, but overlook another key to survival - water. Dew, rainfall and wild food provide some moisture naturally, but another source is usually needed. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that you place your bird bath near some shrubbery so the bird can make a getaway if needed.
  • Most birds are frightened of deep water. Create different depths in your bird bath using rocks or stones. Small birds like finches and sparrows will hang out in the shallow end, while robins and jays will be a bit more adventurous on the deep end. A rim or perch should be provided near the water.
  • Remember to clean your bath periodically. Use a scrub brush and fresh water and then refill.
  • If you live in a cold climate, you can purchase an outdoor heater to prevent the water from freezing.
  • Put your bird bath in a sunny locale. The warm sun will always feel good to wet birds, but this will also help keep ice off of the bath in the winter.