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How to Choose a Bird Feeder: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Choose a Bird Feeder

Are you in a dilemma about how to choose a bird feeder that fits your avian friend’s needs?

If so, you’re not alone.

There are thousands of options online, and there are about 10 types of bird feeders, each having a different purpose.

So, if you’re a newbie in the birdkeeping world, simple tasks like choosing a bird feeder can be overwhelming and confusing at times.

But don’t worry; we’re here to help you out!

In this comprehensive guide to bird feeders, we’ll share with you:

  • Helpful tips on how to pick a bird feeder
  • How birds and you can benefit from feeders
  • When and where to use this bird-magnetizing tool

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

How To Choose a Bird Feeder

Since every feeder type serves a specific purpose, not all feeders will work out for the birds in your backyard.

So, in this section, we’ll help you determine how to choose the right feeder so you can make wise purchasing decisions.

So, what is the best bird feeder to use?

To answer that question, we’ll detail the factors you must consider when looking for a bird feeder.

These can help you discover how to choose the right bird feeder and make wise purchasing decisions.

1. Consider the Bird Species and Their Needs

One of the most crucial factors is the species of birds you want to attract to your feeder and their needs.

If you want to attract hummingbirds, the feeder that fits their needs is the nectar feeder.

It’s available in tube and dish style, but tube feeders are often more secure and waterproof.

This can also encourage you to study the purpose of each feeder and how it can benefit every avian species.

This way, you’ll know what feeder types suit the needs of the birds you want to attract, and you can save a considerable amount of money.

2. Think About The Birds’ Safety

Another factor you should consider when choosing a feeder is the bird’s safety.

What is the safest bird feeder?

Well, it should have no rough edges or sharp points that might injure a bird.

The birds must be able to perch away from the food to prevent it from becoming soiled.

Furthermore, the feeder must have a secure cover and be safe from predators.

Tray or ground feeders, however, often have no covers and are placed on the ground, so they’re an open invitation for predators like squirrels and chipmunks.

Additionally, they have no protection against rain and snow, so the seeds will easily get wet.

If the tray feeder has no drainage holes or screens at the bottom, the seeds may grow sprouts and foster bacteria and fungi.

So ensure it has drainage and offers just enough seeds for the birds to consume.

3. Size Matters

The size also matters because, generally, the bigger the feeders are, the larger and more birds they can accommodate.

So, if you want to attract larger birds such as goldfinches, bluebirds, and cardinals, you should get a feeder that is appropriate for their size.

4. Consider Cost-effectiveness and Durability

You should also ensure that the feeder can withstand extreme weather conditions and attacks from pesky bird predators.

This way, you would spend your money wisely, and the birds can benefit from the feeder for a long time.

Furthermore, the suction or hook of the feeder must be secure and safe.

Otherwise, it might fall out, and the seeds will just go to waste.

Now, let’s see what bird feeders are best for different bird species and the advantages and drawbacks of each type.

Types of Bird Feeders

Here are different types of bird feeders you can choose from for your avian friends.

Tube Feeders

1. Tube Feeders

As its name suggests, this has a tube-like structure and can contain enough bird food like grains and seeds.

Tube feeders could either be made of glass or metal and often have several feeding ports and a large dish at the bottom.

The Pros and Cons of Tube Feeders:


The advantage of this feeder is it keeps the seeds clean and dry.

Some tube feeders come with a squirrel-resistant feature, although some of these pesky predators can chew the end caps or plastic ports.

However, it’s worth noting that some of the bird’s perches are above the feeding ports.

They’re designed to encourage birds like goldfinches and chickadees to feed while hanging upside down.

This technique confuses other predators, but the downside is it discourages grosbeaks and jays from eating on the feeder.


The downside of this feeder is most tube feeders extend about an inch or more below their bottom-most feeding ports.

And the seeds stuck in this area become a breeding ground for molds, fungi, and bacteria.

That’s why we prefer blocking the lowest part below the bottommost feeding port.

Generally, the bigger the tube feeder, the more birds it can accommodate.

But it’s not practical to use a huge one if there are only a handful of birds using the feeders.

Also, make sure the feeder you purchase is sturdy and weatherproof and has metal caps, bases and seed portals that can protect your avian friends from predators and make them feel comfortable.

Since most tube feeders come with a hook, it’s best to hang this kind of feeder from a hook or tree branch. But how?

Hanging Tips for Tube Feeders:

  • Hang your tube feeder at least five feet in the air and make sure there’s enough clearance to prevent predators from jumping into the tube.
  • And if you love watching birds, place it in a location where you can see it by the window. This way, it’ll be easier for you to see if the birds are in danger.

Best for: Small birds like Finches, Sparrows, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, and Titmice

Dish Style Feeders

2. Dish Style Feeders

Dish style is also known as a saucer or tray feeder, and it allows birds to access the bird feeder immediately with their large openings.

It’s one of the most common and simplest bird feeders.

But it attracts a wide variety of birds, including pigeons, starlings, House Sparrows, grosbeaks, and native sparrows.

But what are the advantages and downsides of this feeder?

Pros and Cons of Tray Bird Feeders


Since this non-exclusive feeder has a large opening, it can accommodate multiple birds of different varieties at the same time.

Also, its edge has a rim that prevents seeds from falling, and you have the freedom to put anything you want to share with your birds—may it be seeds, fruits or veggies.


The downside is that it has no protection against rain, and many tray feeders have no drainage.

As a result, the seeds in the feeders can easily get wet, and without drainage, molds and bacterial growth are more likely to happen.

It also leaves an open invitation for squirrels, and the seeds can get soiled by the birds’ droppings.

Others cover their dishes, though, but they must have ports so the birds can pick the food up easily.

Tips When Using Tray Feeders:

  • If you want to prevent squirrels from munching on the seeds you prepared for the birds, add a squirrel baffle on the pole or a suspension chain.
  • Choose a tray feeder with a good drainage system or one with a removable bottom for fairly frequent hosing.
  • And lastly, clean the feeder frequently and make sure to put just enough amount of bird seeds your avian friends can consume in a day.

Best for: Jays, Juncos, Doves, Starlings, Chickadees, Blackbirds, Grosbeaks, Buntings, Nuthatches, and Cardinals

Suet Bird Feeders

3. Suet Bird Feeders

Suet feeders are distinguishable because of their cage-like or basket-like structure made of either plastic mesh or wire.

As its name hints, it’s designed to hold suet cakes made of densely packed animal fat, specifically, those that surround their (usually beef or mutton) kidneys.

It’s easy to digest and metabolize for birds and is high in fat, making it a great nutrient source during extremely cold weather.

Suet cakes are usually mixed with peanuts and other ingredients like cornmeal, birdseed, or fruit.

You can easily nail or tie it to a tree trunk or attach it to the sides of a hopper feeder.

Pros and Cons of Suet Feeders


Filling and cleaning is a breeze with this type of bird feeder.

And since its content comes in a cake form, the birds can easily peck it off until it’s gone, and there will be less waste.


The most common concern of birdwatchers with this kind of feeder is they’re afraid that the bird’s tongue or beak might stick to the metal.

But that rarely happens, and if you want a safer cage, you can opt for plastic suet feeders.

Reminder When Feeding Suet to Birds:

  • Before offering suet cake to your bird, remember that peanuts are high in aflatoxin and prone to bacterial growth, which can be highly fatal for birds. So, make sure to buy from reputable sellers or, better yet, avoid adding it to the cake.
  • Others use mesh onion bags as a suet feeder, but it puts your birds at a high risk of getting stuck into the mesh. And if left unnoticed, that can lead to your avian friend’s death.

Best for: Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Jays, Chickadees, Wrens, Cardinals, Titmice, Starlings, and other birds.

Nectar Feeder for Birds

4. Nectar Feeders

This kind of feeder was designed to hold sweet nectar for hummingbirds.

It comes in different forms, such as a bottle or tray, and it can be made of glass or plastic.

But the best material to choose is glass or plastic with vibrant orange or red hues because they’re more attractive for these nectar-loving creatures.

A nectar feeder comprises a plastic dish with a top or a bottle-type tube.

Some manufacturers go all out on making nectar feeders fancy, but what matters more is efficiency and affordability.

Pros and Cons of Nectar Feeders:


This kind of feeder is secure because it’s meant to carry a liquid.

And they’re attractive not just for hummingbirds but also for finches and chickadees looking for a place to perch.


Since this is exclusive to hummingbirds with long beaks, other birds can’t benefit from the nectar.

Furthermore, nectar can easily get spoilt during warmer months, so you must clean it more often.

Reminders When Using Nectar Feeders:

  • Sugar water spills attract bees, so you need to ensure there’s no leak and use feeders with red ports because yellow is attractive for bees.
  • Don’t add food coloring to the nectar just to make it instagrammable because it’s toxic for your feathery friends.
  • You can also plant flowers with red petals (which are hummingbirds’ favorite) in your garden to attract them even more to your feeder because red is their favorite color.

Best for: Hummingbirds

Thistle Feeder

5. Thistle Feeder

This kind of bird feeder could be made of wire mesh or plastic tube with tiny portals or cloth mesh.

It was originally designed to dispense nyjer seeds which are high in calories and oil.

It allows avian creatures to cling to the mesh fabric and grab the seed through the openings with ease.

But it’s best to get a thistle feeder with a water holder at the bottom.

Pros and Cons of Thistle Feeder


Small birds like finches love this feeder, especially if they can eat upside down.

And it can cater to many birds simultaneously.


Since the seeds can get wet with rain, there’s also a possibility of mold and bacterial growth.

So, it’s best not to put too many seeds and use a thistle feeder that can provide just the right amount of food to the birds in your area.

Tips for Nyjer or Thistle Seed Feeder:

  • Birds prefer fresh nyjer seeds, so avoid dry seed mixes.
  • The seeds can become moldy, and that’s dangerous for your feathery friends! So, clean the feeder regularly with 10% bleach solution and scrub them thoroughly.

Best for: Goldfinches, Purple finches, Buntings, Redpoles, Siskins, Juncos, Mourning doves, and Sparrows.

6. Ground Feeder

Birds like doves, pigeons, cardinals, sparrows, bluebirds, quails, grouse, and juncos love foraging in the ground.

So if you want to attract these birds to your backyard, it’s best to use ground feeders, which are trays constructed from wood, metal, or screen.

Pros and Cons of Ground Feeder


Just like tray feeders, it provides more space for birds so they can easily peck on the seeds anytime.


It’s accessible for everybody, including squirrels who might feast on the seeds or attack your avian friends.

So, it’s not safe if you live in an area with a lot of pesky bird predators.

Furthermore, it has no cover; the seeds can get wet and become moldy, and the birds’ droppings might get mixed with the seeds.

Best for: Doves, Pigeons, Cardinals, Sparrows, and Quails

Oriole Bird Feeder

7. Oriole Feeder

As for Orioles, they’re more attracted to bright oranges and would prefer fruits like oranges, nectar, jelly, and mealworms.

Oriole feeders can be either plastic, glass, or wood (cedar or redwood).

Pros and Cons of Oriole Feeder


Their feeder must have perches and feeding stations specifically designed to hold those foods, and that’s where the Oriole feeder comes into the picture.

It’s created only for them, leaving them with no other competition.

It’s ideal for the spring season but also useful during the bird’s mating season.


Since this is exclusive to Oriole bird species, other birds will ignore this invitation.

So if you want to attract diverse bird species into your backyard, this is not ideal for you.

Oriole Feeder Must-Haves:

  • Each oriole feeder must have large holes for their beaks and small dishes for their favorite jelly.
  • They need more protein during the mating season, so it’s best to offer them mealworms and other insects as well.
  • Spikes for orange or apple halves or suet cakes
  • Orange bases and ports because it’s their favorite color. And even if you’re not going to offer oranges, just add orange ribbons to your feeder to signal them that something tasty awaits them.
  • If the feeder doesn’t have an insect guard, get vegetable oil around the port rims to prevent ants from consuming the foods for the Orioles.

Best for: Oriole birds

Window Feeder for Birds

8. Window Feeder

If you don’t have a backyard space or porch where you can attach a bird feeder, this is the perfect solution for you.

This window feeder is attachable to a window using brackets or suction cups.

They’re often made of acrylic and have tiny perches.

Pros and Cons of Window Feeder


They’re generally safe for birds and attract the birds up close. It also signals the birds to slow down to avoid bumping into the windows.

It might take time for birds to trust you, but once they do, you can walk close to them and watch them by the window.

So, you can see how the birds move and observe their feathers, eyes, and body movements up close!


Birds can get messy when eating, so you will have to clean your window and their mess below regularly.

This way, you can keep your home free from mess and droppings.

Things to Consider When Having Window Feeders:

  • If you want to attract larger species like bluebirds, cardinals, and goldfinches, get larger window feeders that can cater to their size.
  • Choose a durable plastic with strong suction to prevent falling out.
  • Get rid of other food sources in your backyard if you want to attract them to your window feeder and offer peanuts, bright seeds, and fat balls.

Best for: Bluebirds, Cardinals, Goldfinches and other small bird species

Peanut Feeders for Birds

9. Peanut Feeder

As its name suggests, this feeder holds peanuts and is often wreath-shaped.

It often comes with holes and is easy to mount with a hook.

It’s a good substitute for suet cages and attracts a wide variety of birds, but most especially jays who can smell peanuts from a 5-mile radius.

Peanuts are high in fat, so they can help many birds thrive and survive even during winter.

You can offer either shelled or whole peanuts. Some birds will crush them anyway, while others eat them as it is.

Pros and Cons of Peanut Feeder


Since it takes a longer time for birds to eat the peanuts, it provides you more time to observe the birds.

It also magnetizes different birds making your birdwatching experience even more entertaining and fun!


Peanuts can get moldy and easily go bad after a few days, so offer only enough amount for the birds and place it in a dry and safe area.

Best for: Peanut-loving avian species such as Cardinals, Jays, Chickadees, Sparrows, and Woodpeckers.

Hopper Feeder for Birds

10. Hopper Feeder

Also known as a house bird feeder, this type resembles a mini house with pitched roofs.

It could hold many seeds and usually comes with a tapered container and tray so the birds can access the seeds easily.

The more seeds the birds eat, the more seeds fall down from the container.

This feeder is best placed on tree branches or poles and must be suspended 5 feet off the ground and 6 feet away from trees or bushes.

Pros and Cons of Hopper Feeder


This kind of feeder protects the seeds from bad weather because it’s close, although there’s still a chance that the birds may get wet during extreme weather.

But they’re sanitary and prevent bird droppings from getting into the seeds.

It’s like a big pantry for birds, and it can hold a large amount of seeds for a few days.


Feeders like this can be extra challenging to clean, but investing in cleanliness can help prevent the spreading of diseases and keep them healthy.

Best for: Finches, Cardinals, Chickadees, Buntings, Blackbirds, Jays, Grosbeaks, Sparrows, Titmice, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers

Squirrel-Proof Feeder

11. Squirrel-Proof Feeder

If squirrels often visit your feeder and steal your bird feed, try using a squirrel-proof feeder that uses cages, baffles, tension springs, and collapsible perches.

Some feeders feature a rolling mechanism that closes the feeding ports whenever a squirrel sits on the perch.

Since squirrels have strong front teeth, they can easily destroy wood and weak plastic feeder materials.

So, choose a durable material like metal, plastic, acrylic, or epoxy resin.

Tube, hopper, and suet feeders can be squirrel-proof though, but platform and window feeders are not.

Now of all these wide range of options, how can you find the right feeder for your feathery friends?

We’ll dig deeper into that in this buying guide.

But Why Are Bird Feeders Important?

Getting feeders for birds and placing them outside your home, in your backyard, or in your garden can help avian creatures in many ways.

Benefits of Preparing Bird Feeders

Here’s how having a bird feeder in your backyard, porch, or garden can benefit avian creatures.

It helps parent birds feed their chicks

By setting up a feeder, you’re making parent birds’ job of providing food for their chicks easier.

It also helps to increase the chicks’ chance of survival.

And the more feed you provide, the less time the parents will need to leave their nest to forage for food.

It provides a supplemental food source for birds

Birds can take up to 10,000 calories per day.

This staggering feeding requirement can be met by mounting a bird feeder into your garden.

It also reduces the bird’s stress levels because there’s less need to forage, and that can have a positive impact on a bird’s overall health.

It provides food during the cold season

There are scarce food sources during cold months because everything will be covered with snow.

And that can jeopardize the health of backyard birds who don’t migrate during this critical season.

But if you can build a feeder or feeding station for them, you’re helping these wild avian creatures survive and thrive.

It gives energy to migratory birds

Migratory birds need abundant food sources along their migration routes to continue their long journey.

And even if the last migratory bird has already departed, it’s best to keep the bird feeder outside so that any avian creature that might get past your area can have a place to rest and recharge.

It provides relaxation

Setting up a bird feeder outside is not only beneficial to our avian friends but also to our health and well-being.

Birds’ joyful chirping can be relaxing, and feeding them provides us with an escape to unwind from our stressful lives.

If you’ve tried feeding wild birds, you’ll understand how soothing and healing such an experience can be.

It gives you a chance to take a break and observe the wonders of these creatures.

So, what are the best feeders you can get for the birds you want to attract?

Bird on a Feeder During Winter

How and When to Use a Bird Feeder

Feeders for birds are most useful during winter, early spring, or migration, when food sources are usually depleted.

But you can still hang it during summer because even if they can forage for their own food, the seeds can help supplement their needs.

How do you hang a bird feeder?

Hanging a bird feeder is a breeze if it comes with a hook that allows you to attach it to tree branches.

Others utilize cords, ropes, twines, or chains but make sure they’re sturdy enough to fold the feeder well.

Where to Place a Bird Feeder

The location of a bird feeder is worth considering to ensure the birdseed won’t go to waste and that the birds can spot them right away.

So, where is the best place for a bird feeder?

Bird Feeder Placement Tips:

1. Place it away from windows

Window collisions are common among birds, and it’s often fatal to tiny avian creatures.

To prevent this from happening, we recommend placing your feeders 3 feet from your windows.

This will allow you to look closely at the birds while keeping them safe.

2. Hang the feeders high enough

There are two reasons why you should hand the bird feeders high enough.

The first one is to prevent predators like feral cats from jumping and attacking the birds.

The other reason why you should hang your feeder is to prevent parasite infestation.

3. Place it near trees and shrubs

Having a bird feeder near a tree or shrub cover provides shelter and protection against predators and extreme weather conditions.

It also gives your bird a place to rest.

So, it’s best to place your feeder near evergreens and other berry-producing trees and shrubs such as bayberry, chokeberry, and American beautyberry.

These have foliage that provides shade and bird protection.

However, you must also ensure that it’s not too close to branches that might serve as a jumping-off point for cats and squirrels.

4. Pick a peaceful spot

Most birds prefer calm and quiet places. So, if you want to attract more birds, you should set up the feeder in a peaceful area in your backyard.

Don’t place it near active areas like barbecue grills, pool or garage door wind chimes, or anything that produces loud noises.

5. Make it more visible for passing birds

Your bird feeder must be easy to spot for traveling birds.

It must be free of obstructing views so you can easily watch out and observe the birds feasting on your feeder.

6. Secure it in a sheltered place

If your area is prone to storms or strong winds, we recommend placing the bird feeder in a sheltered area to prevent spilling.

It can also help protect the feeder from extreme heat that can spoil the food more quickly and allow you to clean and refill it even when the weather is bad.

Thistle Feeder

This bird feeder should be near a shrub or tree so birds will be comfortable in approaching it and spot this food source clearly.

Suet Feeder

We recommend placing this feeder near tree trunks or thick branches of trees.

Window feeder

To prevent the birds from bumping into the windows, it’s best to place this feeder within 3 feet of the windows.

Tray or ground feeder

Since ground feeders are usually open and uncovered, it’s best to place them under the roof of a covered patio or gazebo.

This way, you can protect the seeds from rain and snow.

But if you have no covered patio or gazebo, you can also put it under the trees or shrubs.

Nectar feeder

If you want to attract more hummingbirds, we recommend hanging more than one tray and placing them at least 10 feet apart.

Make sure it’ll be protected from wind to ensure that the nectar won’t spill out.

FAQs About How to Choose a Bird Feeder

Where is the best place to put a bird feeder?

It’s easier to attract birds to your feeder if they feel safe and secure.

So place your feeder above the ground and near shelters like trees and away from busy spots in your home.

What is the best bird feeder to attract cardinals?

Since Cardinals are full-breasted and broader, they need platform feeders that provide large perching space.

We don’t recommend lightweight feeders for them because they may sway and not be able to handle Cardinals’ weight.

What are the best feeders for birds?

The best feeders for birds are those made of durable metal or plastic, easy to clean, and squirrel-proof designs.

You can find many options online, but we also curated a guide if you need help in choosing one for your backyard.

How to choose a hummingbird feeder?

When choosing a hummingbird feeder, you must look for a secure and easy-to-clean option.

And since you’ll be dealing with nectar, make sure it’s leak-free so no insects will march into it.

Birds Happily Feeding

Final Tips on How to Choose a Bird Feeder

When choosing a bird feeder, prioritize the needs of the bird species you want to attract to your backyard.

Other factors that are also worth considering are the size of the birds, their safety, and the feeder’s durability and cost-effectiveness.

The most versatile and secure bird feeder type is the tubular one because the seeds are well-protected against different external elements.

But each type of bird feeder has a drawback.

No feeder design is perfect, but if you keep those things in mind, you’ll be able to make wise purchasing decisions you won’t regret.

Now that you know how to choose a bird feeder, it’s time to explore and find one that can magnetize birds into your backyard or windows.

If you need help, don’t worry, we have your back!

Check our detailed review of 10 bird feeders below to discover some of the best finds online.

READ NEXT: The 10 Best Bird Feeders of 2023

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