When it comes to attracting birds to your yard, bird feeders are an easy and effective solution. There are many different types of bird feeders available on the market, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. To help you choose the right bird feeder for your needs, we’ll go over the major feeder types and describe their features.
Tray or Platform Feeder:
A tray or platform feeder is any flat, raised surface onto which bird food is spread. Tray feeders attract most species of feeder birds, but they offer no protection against squirrels, chipmunks, rain, or snow. Plus, the seed can quickly become soiled by droppings because birds stand right on top of it.
Tray feeders placed near the ground are most likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows. Tray feeders work well mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps and can also be suspended. Some models have a roof to provide some protection from the weather. Be sure your tray feeders have plenty of drainage holes.
Hopper or House Feeder:
A hopper or house feeder is a platform with walls and a roof, forming an enclosed “hopper.” This type protects seeds fairly well against the weather but less well against squirrels. It also keeps seed cleaner.
Hopper feeders are attractive to most feeder birds, including finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice. Most hoppers hold a good quantity of seed. Few are weatherproof, however, so the food may get wet and moldy if it sits for a few days. Hopper feeders can be mounted on a pole or suspended.
A window feeder is usually made of clear plastic and suction-cupped to a window. This type of feeder attracts finches, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice, allowing close-up views of the birds as they come to feed. Be aware, though, that the birds feed while standing on a pile of seeds inside the feeder, so the food risks becoming soiled.
A tube feeder is a hollow cylinder, usually of clear plastic, with multiple feeding ports and perches. Tube feeders keep seed fairly clean and dry, and if they have metal feeding ports, they are somewhat squirrel-resistant.
The birds attracted depend on the size of the perches under the feeding ports: short perches accommodate small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches (such as the familiar House Finch), but exclude larger birds such as grackles and jays. Styles with perches above the feeding ports are designed for seed-eating birds that like to feed hanging upside down, such as goldfinches, while dissuading others.
A nyjer feeder is a special tube feeder designed with extra-small openings to dispense tiny nyjer seeds. Nyjer is also known as thistle or niger. These feeders attract a variety of small songbirds, especially finches and redpolls. Nyjer “socks”—fine-mesh bags to which birds cling to extract the seeds—are also available.
A suet feeder is a wire-mesh cage or plastic-mesh bag, such as an onion bag, which holds suet or suet mixture. This type of feeder can be nailed or tied to a tree trunk. It can also be suspended. Suet can also be smeared into knotholes.
Suet feeders attract a variety of woodpeckers and nuthatches, as well as chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. Suet cages that are open only at the bottom are starling-proof; they force birds to hang upside down while feeding, something starlings find difficult.
A hummingbird feeder is a container to hold artificial nectar or sugar solution; it may be bottle or saucer style. The bottle or tube type of hummingbird feeder is usually made of glass or plastic, often with red plastic flowers and bee-guards (little plastic screens that keep insects away from the sugar solution) on the feeding ports. Saucer types are usually plastic.
Make sure the feeder is easy to take apart and clean because it should be washed frequently. For example, the fill hole should be large enough for you to reach in while cleaning.
You can make your own hummingbird feeder with a bottle, rubber cork, and the drinking tube from a pet hamster water bottle. The color red attracts hummingbirds, so paint the feeding port with red nail polish or tie red ribbons to the feeder.
Saucer-shaped hummingbird feeders have feeding ports
Keep Feed and Feeding Areas Clean
To ensure the health of your backyard birds, it is essential to keep your feeders and birdbaths clean. This is especially important in preventing the spread of diseases such as Trichomoniasis, Salmonellosis, Aspergillosis, and Avian Pox, which can easily be transmitted at bird feeding areas.
Disinfect Your Feeder and Birdbath
To keep pathogens at bay, it is recommended to immerse your seed feeder or birdbath in a solution of nine parts water and one part non-chlorine bleach. Rinse it thoroughly and repeat this process one to two times per month. In the presence of outbreaks, disinfect twice as often.
Empty Water from Your Birdbath Every Day
It is necessary to empty the water from your birdbath every day. Brush or wipe it clean and rinse it thoroughly. Refill the birdbath with fresh water to avoid the accumulation of bacteria and parasites.
Discard Old Seed and Hulls
When cleaning your feeder, get rid of the old seed. Rake or sweep up any uneaten hulls on the ground. In winter, scraping off a few inches of snow will suffice. For busier feeding areas, seed trays may be used to catch jettisoned hulls and seed.
Overcrowding can expedite the spread of diseases at bird feeding areas. If possible, provide more than one feeder and spread them out. Give the birds variety and plenty of room to avoid overcrowding.
Clean Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders should also be cleaned regularly. One alternative is to wash them with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water about once a week. If your feeder has become dirty, try adding some grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution and shake vigorously. The grains act as a good abrasive. Rinse your feeder well with warm water three times before refilling with sugar solution.
By following these simple steps, you can help prevent the spread of diseases and ensure the health of your backyard birds. Remember to clean your feeders and birdbaths regularly to keep them free of debris, moldy seed, and other waste that can harm birds.