By Nikki Moustaki, Backyard Birding, Volume 1, published by BowTie Magazines, publisher of BIRD TALK and BirdChannel.com.
There are as many types of wild bird feeders as there are wild birds that will come to your back yard. Experiment with a variety of bird feeders to see what most suits you and your personal aesthetic. You can find them as simply made or as artistic as you like. As for the wild birds, which ones do you want? It is up to you and your bird feeders. Here are 11 wild bird feeders that may strike both you and your wild birds’ fancy.
Globe Feeders: Also called satellite feeders. Generally made of clear plastic or glass, allowing wild birds to easily spot the wild bird food and for birders to easily tell when the feeders must be refilled. Globe feeders can also be made from ceramic terra cotta or wire. Since globe feeders are mainly for smaller wild birds, you can place them close to your home or use them as secondary bird feeding stations to keep the bigger birds away from the smaller birds’ buffet. Most globe feeders are intended to withstand the weather, especially rain. The globe feeder attracts small songbirds, such as chickadees, nuthatches titmice and finches, and will also attract some woodpeckers.
Tube Feeders: Generally filled with small bird seeds. Tube feeders can be filled with nyjer (thistle) seeds, which will blow away if used in another type of feeder. The beauty of tube-style feeders is that you can get one with more than one tube, and fill each tube with a different kind of bird seed to attract a variety of wild birds to one bird feeder. Depending on the design of the feeder, it also can attract or discourage various types of birds. Some models of tube feeders include a cage around the bird feeder to thwart squirrels, and many come with a rain guard, which is essential for a wet climate. Tube Feeders attract finches, buntings, sparrows, goldfinches and pine siskins.
Dome Feeders: Consist of a platform with a domed top to keep out rain and squirrels. Dome feeders are very flexible, because you can add basically any type of bird seed, insect or fruit to the bird feeder to attract various wild birds. Some dome feeders come equipped with a place to add a suet cake or thistle feeder, so the varieties of wild birds attracted to this type of bird feeder are endless. Some dome feeders also have moveable domes that allow you to adjust the dome height, which will lock out some larger birds and act as a baffle for squirrels.
Platform Feeders: Also called fly-through feeders, platform feeders encourage the widest variety of wild birds, and even draw ground feeders, like doves. Platform feeders are the easiest type to use. You simply place wild bird seed or other food onto the platform and you’re done. The problem with platform feeders is that they can succumb to weather, squirrels and domination by large birds, since everyone in the neighborhood will visit. A platform feeder with a solid bottom will need cleaning more often than a wild bird feeder with a wire bottom, though both should be cleaned when soiled. A squirrel-proof platform feeder is also available and many come with a roof or rain guard. Platform feeders can be made from anything from wood to copper.
Nectar Feeders: Designed predominantly to attract hummingbirds. Nectar feeders often include red in the design as hummingbirds are attracted to red. Some nectar feeders mount to a window with suction cups, and others hang from a mount. The nectar feeder must be cleaned thoroughly every three days following the directions on the packaging. If ants and other insects become a problem at the nectar feeder, add an ant trap, which is a cup filled with water that prevents the ants from reaching the feeder. Many feeders offer this as a built-in option.
Hopper Feeders: These wild bird feeders resemble houses, barns or gazebos. The hopper is filled with wild bird seed that releases on demand into a tray as the bird seed is eaten. Most hoppers have clear sides so you can see when the seed needs replenishing. The type of visitors to your hopper depends on what kind of bird seed you’re offering as both small and large birds can use the hopper, and the size of the tray makes perching easy. If you don’t want a lot on the ground, buy a hopper that comes with a tray or install one below it. You have to refill this type of wild bird feeder often so make sure it is easy to refill. It needs regular cleaning, especially in wet months when seed can get moldy.
Jelly Feeders: Made from a variety of materials, from wood to plastic. Jelly feeders come with a fruit station or fruit spikes, making it easy to serve the fruit that attracts migratory birds, such as apples and oranges. You can also offer mealworms to tempt songbirds to your jelly feeder. Some jelly feeders offer an area to place nectar. Jelly feeders require constant cleaning as fruit rots and jelly and fruit leave a sticky residue. Use a scrub brush and mild bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach) to disinfect it after each use (rinse thoroughly too). Jelly feeders attract: orioles, bluebirds, tanagers and mockingbirds.
Suet Feeders: Generally a suet feeder consists of a small wire cage into which you place a suet cake or block. Suet is essentially beef fat mixed with various tasty treats, such as bird seed, insects, fruit and pellets. It can be offered year-round, but does melt and go rancid. You can purchase a no melt commercial variety. Suet feeders are nice because they don’t need constant refilling, and they attract a variety of colorful wild birds. Suet feeders attract insect eaters, such as bluebirds, blue jays, blackbirds, chickadees, mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles, European starlings, wrens, warblers and woodpeckers.
Window Feeders: Made of clear plastic or acrylic, window feeders attach to the window with suction cups or by fitting inside the window frame. This type of wild bird feeder allows you up-close viewing of feathered visitors, and the wild birds find the food easily because they can see it through the clear plastic. Window feeders come in a variety of styles, from hoppers and suet feeders to platform feeders, nectar feeders, jelly feeders and tube feeders. Some of these feeders include a one-sided mirrored back so that movement inside the house won’t interrupt the wild bird but you can watch it dine. Window feeders make great mealworm feeders, which attract bluebirds, chickadees, gray catbirds, Northern cardinals, mockingbirds, thrushes, titmice and woodpeckers.
Thistle Feeders: A sock or bag feeder. Makes it easy for small birds to pluck out the small, black nyjer or thistle seed, which will blow away in most other feeders. Thistle socks are relatively inexpensive. If you want to get a little fancier, try a tube-style thistle feeder that finches will love and larger birds won’t be able to use. Many of these types of feeders require the bird to cling on or feed upside down, which is perfect for finches. Thistle seed feeders will attract goldfinches, pin siskins and other songbirds.
Woodpecker Feeders: Lengthy feeders that allow woodpeckers to comfortable cling vertically and prop their tail for stability. The mesh on a woodpecker feeder should allow for large, hulled seeds (like hulled peanuts and sunflower seeds) and suet to be consumed easily, but not so easily that a raccoon or squirrel can squander the feast. Because woodpeckers are drawn to fatty nuts and suet, both of which can go rancid in warm weather, use these sparingly in the summer and instead offer fresh fruit and smaller amounts of suet and nuts.