You'll have those feathered visitors flocking to your windows whether you have your sights set on hummingbirds, orioles, finches or simply a wide variety of birds.
Setting up your own bird feeder is a great way to connect and commune with nature. Not everyone is adept to traveling through forests and fields to watch this winged wildlife in their natural habitat, and so an easy way to observe the birds is to invite them to your home kind of like an invited guest.
Before purchasing a bird feeder, ask yourself what type of birds are you trying to attract? There are two main types of feeders: generalized feeders and specialized feeders. A generalized feeder is designed to hold a combination of seed mixes and attract a variety of different birds. They are typically filled with a mixture of safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, milo, and cracked corn. (Though beware, bigger birds can bogart the generalized feeders and deter the smaller birds from coming around.) Whereas, a specialized feeder is constructed with long tubular feeders and little perches, for small birds of interest such as goldfinches and chickadees; it's designed to hold size-specific seeds like sunflower (larger, which requires larger feeding ports) and thistle (smaller, which can easily sift through the mesh).
Look for a feeder that is sturdy, well-constructed, and easy to clean. In this guide, you will better understand the variety of bird feeders and the different types of birds they attract. Our editors have narrowed down the market search to companies that have a reputation in the birding community for quality products and knowledgeable customer service, and whether or not they offer lifetime warranties. Simply hang one from your favorite tree and enjoy the show.
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Considered a classic, the hopper is the most commonly known of all the bird feeders. It is designed to protect seeds from inclement weather such as rain and snow, thanks to its pitched roof; seeds are released from the bottom into a lower tray as birds flock to it and hop along the built-in perch, thus the name. It will attract an array of species (think blue jays, cardinals, and red-winged blackbirds) and filled with basic bird seed mix. The hopper is an ideal choice for someone who is just beginning to enjoy birdwatching and looking to purchase their starter feeder.
Perky-Pet Copper Finish Panorama Feeder, $19, perkypet.com.
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As the name implies, tube feeders are designed in the shape of a tube. It's constructed with holes of varying sizes to accommodate seed mixes, allowing several birds to peck and dine at one time on its feeding ports and perches. Sunflower seed tube feeders are quite popular as they attract American goldfinches, chickadees, pine siskins, and finches (purple and house breeds). When selecting a tube feeder, opt for one that has seed dispensers surrounded by metal ports, such as the one pictured here, as this will protect the feeder from raiding squirrels and house sparrows.
Duncraft Squirrel Proof Selective, $70, duncraft.com.
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Suet—a nutritious mixture of fat solidified into lard, nuts, and other ingredients—provides a valuable energy source to birds, allowing them to stay warm in the cold months of winter. Avoid feeding suet when temperatures rise in the summer, as it can turn rancid. Some people like to make their own suet cakes by grinding the suet and adding seeds. These cakes are then loaded into the caged feeder and strategically positioned in a tree or hung from a pole, where you will attract titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and the occasional woodpecker to peck away at their nutty treat.
The Effort-Less Birdfeeder 2-Pocket Suet Feeder, $30.42, homedepot.com.
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To attract birds such as bluebirds, orioles or robins that don't eat nuts—utilize meal worms. The domed feeder is a good choice of design as it features a feeding tray with antimicrobial product protection and a protective top, allowing smaller birds to feed without being disturbed by larger and more aggressive birds. Be sure to clean this feeder regularly, checking the manufacturer's instructions to determine if it needs to be hand-washed or if it's dishwasher safe. To stock up on your worms (live, roasted, or dried), visit your local pet shop, fishing shop, or specialty store.
Droll Yankees 344318 DCF Dorothy's Cardinal Domed Bird Feeder, $74, drollyankees.com.
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Hummingbird Nectar Feeder
For hummingbirds, nectar is their primary source of energy and the key to attracting these whimsical winged creatures. When shopping for a nectar feeder, choose one that securely hangs level and is less prone to spillage (our editors like one that comes with a detachable nectar bowl and an open-top hook for hanging multiple feeders in a vertical row). Most designs come in the color red for a reason: hummingbirds are naturally attracted to it. Multiple feeding ports means more hummingbirds. Some people mix homemade nectar by simply combining four parts plain water to one part regular sugar—which ensures having the hummingbirds hovering in no time.
Terrain Circle Hummingbird Feeder, $28, shopterrain.com.
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Peanut Wreath Feeder
The peanut feeder comes in an assortment of shapes from tubular to ball and tray. However, the wreath shape is a favorite for both function and beautifying your backyard. Its mesh design lengthens the bird's stay at the feeder as they peck at it to remove the nuts. A quality peanut feeder should be both durable enough to withstand pecking and flexible enough to allow for the release of the peanuts. The types of birds attracted to larger nuts include titmice, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers.
Songbird Essentials Whole Peanut Wreath Ring Feeder, $19, amazon.com.
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Freestanding Bird Feeder
A freestanding feeder won't require any hanging, including pedestal feeders as well as some platform feeders. They are ideal if your backyard isn't inhabited by many trees, or if you want to create an outdoor space design scheme that calls for this type of aesthetic. Some freestanding feeders are quite elaborate and elegant in design, allowing you to stylize your own outdoor wild bird sanctuary. Some freestanding feeders are low and close to the ground, and some are designed with a pole feature. Be sure that your pole feeder, should you opt for one, is secured probably or weighted down so that it can withstand visits by squirrels that may scurry onto it.
Eva Solo Bird Feeder Table, $154, lumens.com.
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The tray feeder is simplistic in design by nature (it's like a plate for the birds) and yet they offer perhaps the best view of your visiting birds, their mannerisms, and movements. It displays food easily and allows the birds to find it easier by sight. Some tray feeders offer different compartments so that you can offer an array or variety of different seeds and types of food. For an upgrade, opt for one with roof that can protect the food from the elements, as well as some kind of protective bottom designed to drain moisture and keep the food dry. Cardinals, sparrows, bluebirds, towhees, and dark-eyed juncos are some of the species that are most attracted to tray feeders.
Nature's Way Hanging Platform Feeder, $25, natureswaybirds.com.
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Window feeders give you the best view of the feathered friends inhabiting your yard, not to mention a buffet for the birds. It's often constructed of acrylic for a multi-dimensional view with a long feeder tray that can accommodate fruit, mealworms, suet, or seed and occupy four to six birds at a time (or sometimes, a pesky squirrel.) The suction-cup attachment ensures a durable hold that's also easily removable. Some even come equipped with mirror-film for a one-way view that doesn't scare away the birds.
Aspects Buffet Window Feeder with Double Seed Tray, $28, amazon.com.
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Photography: Heath Outdoor Products11 of 12
Orioles—with their brilliant orange and black plumage—are attracted to three things: fruit, jelly, and nectar. For a specialized feeder that caters to their sweet taste, opt for one designed to display orange slices and jars of grape jelly. Many feeders come in an array of clever designs; this modern one is shaped like a halved citrus fruit and constructed of metal for optimal weather resistance. The removable glass jars can be filled with mealworms or nectar too.
Heath Outdoor Products Clementine Oriole Feeder, $15, orschelnfarmhome.com.
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Also known as thistle feeders, the nyjer feeder attracts certain species like sparrows, doves, quails, finches, goldfinches, and chickadees who enjoy nyjer seed. Nyjer seeds possess a high fat and protein content, and look like small grains of wild rice. It uses small mesh or finy feeding ports that allow these petite seeds to be eaten without spillage. These feeders get the most visitors and are best hung from late fall to early summer, when natural seed supplies are scarce and these flying friends are seeking food.
Stokes Select Thistle Finch Screen Bird Feeder, $14.29, petco.com.