There are hundreds of styles, designs, sizes and shapes of bird feeders available, so which one is best for your backyard birds? Choosing the right bird feeder takes careful consideration, for while any feeder will provide food to birds, different birds are more likely to come to specific feeders. Knowing how to choose a bird feeder will allow backyard birders to select the best feeders to keep their backyard flock happy, healthy and well-fed.
How to Choose a Bird Feeder
There are many considerations to make when choosing a bird feeder. By evaluating these factors carefully, you are choosing a feeder your birds will appreciate and one that will be easy for you to use.
- Birds: Do you want to feed many different types of birds from a single feeder, or are you interested in a feeder for one specific type of bird? Large, basic feeders such as hoppers and platforms are best for mixed flocks or larger, ground-feeding birds, while more elaborate feeders are designed for certain birds' feeding preferences. Clinging birds such as goldfinches, for examples, prefer mesh feeders or feeding socks that allow them to use their natural feeding habits and postures. Perching birds such as sparrows, titmice and chickadees enjoy tube feeders with perches conveniently placed near feeding ports.
- Food: If you plan to offer a specific type of food, you will need a specific type of feeder. Offering suet to backyard birds, for example, is best done in a mesh or cage feeder that has room for suet-loving birds such as woodpeckers and nuthatches to prop themselves while feeding, just as they would prop themselves along a tree trunk. If you are choosing a seed feeder, be sure the feeding ports are the appropriate size for the seed you wish to offer – tiny Nyjer seeds will fall through the holes meant for whole sunflower seeds, for example, and poor port size leads to much wasted seed.
- Size: The feeder's overall size determines not only how many birds it can feed at once, but also how much seed it can hold and how frequently it will need refilling. If a feeder is too large, it may be too heavy to hang easily, but a feeder that is too small may fall or be damaged if it is hung in a windy area.
- Ease of Use: The practical side of choosing a bird feeder means selecting one you can use easily. It should be easy to refill, simple to hang or place on a pole and easy to thoroughly clean. Complicated feeders cannot be refilled or maintained as easily and are more susceptible to damage and harboring unhealthy bacteria or parasites that can harm birds.
- Materials: The construction of the feeder is important to many backyard birders. Wood feeders have a rustic, natural look but are subject to weathering and wear. Metal feeders are less susceptible to squirrel damage but may be too hot to hang in full sunlight. Plastic feeders are often the least expensive but may warp or discolor, while glass feeders are heavier and may break more easily. Choose a feeder made with the best materials for where you plan to hang it and how you plan to use it.
- Features: Different feeders come with different design features. Some are equipped with cages to exclude large birds or squirrels, and some come with built-in baffles to protect against feeder pests or rain. Other features to consider include the number of feeding ports, how the feeder can be hung, how visible seed levels are and what types of perches are available for visiting birds.
- Design: Aesthetically speaking, there is no limit to the range of bird feeder designs. Feeders frequently come in different colors and shapes, often with whimsical or natural accents to make them both functional and beautiful. Choose feeders that suit your design preferences and match the theme, mood and décor of your backyard or garden.
- Cost: The price of a bird feeder can range from $5 for a small, plastic feeder to more than $100 for a large, elaborate, customized design. When choosing a feeder keep the cost in mind, remembering that birds don't read price tags and are just as happy feeding from inexpensive feeders. A very cheap feeder, however, may not be large or durable enough for your needs, so balance price with function to choose the feeder that is your best deal.
More Tips for Choosing Bird Feeders
With so many factors to consider when choosing a bird feeder, it can be overwhelming to select the most appropriate one. If you're stuck between several possible choices, try…
- Starting with easier, simpler feeder styles to attract more birds, then specialize with feeders for the birds you enjoy the most.
- Opting for a variety of feeder styles, sizes and designs to make your feeding stations more attractive to different birds and to reduce competition at any one feeder.
- Taking steps to gradually get birds to use a new feeder, no matter what the design, so they will learn that it is a reliable source of food.
- Introducing new feeders only one at a time so birds get use to each one and you have a chance to carefully consider your next choice.
By choosing a bird feeder carefully, you're choosing the next plate your birds will enjoy their nutritious meals from. Choose well, and you'll have a feeder you and your birds can enjoy for years.
Photo – Eurasian Nuthatch © jacme31