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Home Best Backyard Bird-Feeding Practices
Bird Feeders

Bird feeders come in three basic types: tube, hopper and platform. In general, the larger the bird, the larger the feeder will need to be. Hopper and platform feeders are most appropriate for the largest species. There are also specialty feeders that hold suet, nectar, fruits and insects.

© Roger Mayhorn

Tube Feeders

Tube feeders come in several sizes. Basic tubes have seed ports large enough to accommodate sunflower seeds and are attractive to many seed-eating birds. Another type of tube feeder has small ports and is only able to dispense Nyjer® seed or sunflower chips. Other types of tube feeders are specifically designed for goldfinches, as the perches are above the feeding ports and require goldfinches to feed upside down.

Hopper Feeders

Hopper feeders look like small houses. They are typically made of a combination of wood, metal, and/or plastic. Hopper feeders attract birds that would not be able to perch on a tube feeder because of their size. Hopper feeders usually hold larger quantities of seed than tube feeders.

© Roger Mayhorn

Platform Feeders

Platform feeders, where food is offered on a tray, are most likely to attract the largest birds in the neighborhood. Platform feeders typically have a ledge that prevents seed from falling off and some are covered to reduce the impact of bad weather. Platform feeders are typically constructed of wood or plastic.

Suet Feeders

Suet cakes are usually placed in square, plastic-coated wire baskets. Suet feeders vary in the number of cakes they hold. They often have features such as a tail prop to assist birds in perching and a roof to protect the suet from bad weather.

© Roger Mayhorn

Nectar Feeders

Nectar feeders are designed to attract hummingbirds and orioles with nectar feeders for hummingbirds having smaller ports. Nectar feeders vary in the number of ports and amount of nectar they hold. It is important that nectar feeders be cleaned and filled at least every 3 to 5 days to ensure the greatest use.

Choosing a Bird Feeder

In choosing a bird feeder, look for feeders with durable construction that are easy to fill, hold a large capacity of seed, are simple to clean, keep the seed dry, and of course, attract wild birds. Feeders can be mounted in a variety of ways. Bird feeders can be hung from a shepherd’s hook, mounted to a post or hung from a tree. There are also feeders that attach to windows.

Placement of Bird Feeders

Wild bird feeding is for the birds and the people who feed birds. Therefore, bird feeders should be placed in locations where you will get the most enjoyment watching birds, while the birds are protected from predators and the elements. Previous research has found that bird abundance is greatest at bird feeders placed closer to large shrubs and trees as opposed to open areas. To reduce bird-window collisions, feeders should be placed within 3 feet of your window. To reduce cat predation, place feeders in areas where cats cannot hide to ambush birds feeding on the ground. Finally, consider where the feeder will be located relative to the wind. Bird feeders that are pole-mounted are less likely to sway than other types.

Wild Bird Feeder Preferences

Different bird species have different feeder preferences.  To learn more about the bird feeder preferences of your favorite backyard birds, view the NBFS Wild Bird Feeder Preferences for your region.