In today’s article, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about the best bird feeders currently on the market and what you need to know before buying one.
It’s easy enough to think that all bird feeders are the same or that it doesn’t really matter which brand or model you plump for because they all do the same job, i.e. provide food and a feeding platform for you and your garden’s feathered friends. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s actually quite a lot you need to be aware of before purchasing a new bird feeder, as if you make the wrong decision, it could potentially impact the health and safety of birds in your garden, as well as wasting your hard-earned cash.
Luckily, we know a thing or two about bird feeders, and in this piece, we’ll share with you our entire knowledge, as well as a list of the best bird feeders currently available on the market and few tidbits of information about the best types of feed. So, without further ado, let’s crack on!
What Types of Bird Feeders Are There?
Bird feeders are bird feeders, right? Wrong! There are actually a plethora of different types of bird feeders. The reason for this is because there are so many different species of birds, with some species preferring certain types of feeders and other species preferring completely the opposite. If your goal is to attract as many birds to your garden as possible, it’s wise to have a variety of feeder types. However, regardless of which type(s) you opt for, it is e. essential that the feeder is sturdy enough to survive harsh weather and pests from stealing the food (squirrels and rats!), as well as being easy to clean and maintain.
But what different types of bird feeders are there?
Let’s find out.
Platform/Tray Bird Feeders
Often called ‘Platform’ or ‘Tray’ feeders, this type of bird feeders will attract the widest variety of seed-eating birds, such as Sparrows and Starlings. Typically, tray feeders offer little to no protection against harsh weather like snow and rain. Without adequate drainage, the seed may become wet (enough to actually sprout) and promote the growth of bacteria. Furthermore, droppings will also soil the seed in the tray. Therefore, opting for a tray/platform feeder with a screened base rather than a solid one will allow for better drainage and potentially help avoid the aforementioned issues. Cleaning the tray regularly will also help avoid any untoward issues and only offer birds enough birdseed that it will take a day or two to be finished, being sure to shake out old seed when you replenish seed supplies.
To help deter squirrels, it’s important that a squirrel baffle is installed; otherwise, any squirrels in the local area will decimate your seed supply and leave nothing for the birds! If you have a local continent of rats, they’ll no doubt do the same (they’re much better climbers than you’d think).
Any platform/tray feeders situated near ground level will commonly attract ground-feeding species such as sparrows, blackbirds, doves, and jays, in addition to unwanted critters such as squirrels and rats. However, tray feeders are pretty versatile and can be attached to a myriad of different materials and garden objects, so keeping your feeder out of the way of unwanted guests is pretty easy.
House/Hopper Bird Feeders
Unlike tray feeders, hopper or “house” feeders offer a fair amount of protection against both weather and droppings; however, if either does make their way inside the feeder, fungus and bacteria will proliferate. Hopper bird feeders are attractive to a wide array of species, including sparrows, jays, and finches; however, they will also attract unwanted guests such as squirrels and rats if there are any in the surrounding area. This type of feeder will typically hold several day’s worth of seed, which is great for birds – unless it gets wet, of course. Unfortunately, however, hopper bird feeders are much more difficult to clean compared to tray feeders. They’re able to be suspended or mounted on a pole which makes them versatile, which is particularly helpful if the local critters have taken a fancy to your birdseed!
Window Bird Feeders
As the name suggests, this type of bird feeder attaches to your window – usually via suction cups – and will attract birds such as sparrows. The great thing about windows bird feeders is that you get amazing close-up views of the birds, with their placement being the safest of all bird feeder types for preventing window collision accidents. However, on the flip side, because birds will stand in the seed whilst feeding, it doesn’t take long for the seed to become soiled; therefore, daily seed changes and frequent cleaning are required. Luckily, access is easy, and the feeders themselves aren’t difficult to clean.
Nyjer Bird Feeders
Also often referred to as “thistle” bird peers, this type of bird feeder commonly comes in two forms: a tube-feeder style with several feeding ports or a “thistle sock”, which is essentially a mesh bag that birds can cling to feed from. The downside of the latter is they can become very wet after rain, resulting in the seeds becoming wet and not particularly edible. The downsides of the former are the same as regular tube feeders as they’re really not that different at all. Luckily, squirrels and rats don’t seem to be too fussed by Nyjer seeds, so the threat of unwanted critters chowing down on your seed is much less likely.
Tube Bird Feeders
As the name suggests, tube bird feeders are basically hollow tubes filled with seed. Given their design, they’re quite good at keeping seed dry and clean, and if they have metal feeding ports, they are quite squirrel- and rat-resistant (plastic ports will be chewed through rather quickly!). The size of the perches under and around the tube will typically determine which types of bird you will attract. If you want to attract all sorts, opt for a design that has differently sized perches. The downside of tube bird feeders is the fact that in most designs, the tube containing the feed extends an inch or so below the lowest feeding ports, which means that seeds that collect here may often grow mould as nothing can reach them to remove them. Frequent replenishment, therefore, is required to ensure this doesn’t occur. If buying a large model, don’t be tempted to fill it all to the brim unless your garden is particularly active and you have flocks of birds that will chow down on the seeds in a matter of days; otherwise, you may end up with a breeding ground for bacteria – particularly if the seeds get damp.
Suet Bird Feeders
Suet bird feeders are typically made of wire mesh (often plastic coated) or, in some cases, may simply be a mesh bag. They can be attached to posts, trees, suspended from washing lines, or even attached to the side of a “house” bird feeder, which makes them really versatile.
Suet feeders attract a wide range of species as most will have no problem feeding from them; however, if you use a suet cage that only opens on the underside, species such as Starlings may struggle to feed as they have difficulty feeding in this manner.
Suet feeders are very popular given how expensive they are; however, some people are often concerned about metal suet bird feeders, given that reports of birds getting their tongues and eyes stuck to the metal are often made. Although it’s certainly possible for this to occur, it’s improbable, and if you’re especially worried, finding plastic-coated suet bird feeder cages isn’t difficult at all. It’s also possible for birds to become tangled in mesh bags, but again, this is extremely rare. That being said, regardless of which type(s) of bird feeders you have in your garden, it’s always wise to keep a close eye on them and clean, ref-fill, and carry out general maintenance regularly.
Which Is The Best Type Of Bird Feeder?
Ok, so now we’ve looked at the various types of bird feeders currently available, the next step is to decide which type(s) is best suited to your garden and preferences. However, given that there are several types of bird feeders, this isn’t always a straightforward and easy decision to make, and it’s perfectly natural to be a little confused!
I do find yourself unsure which one is best; here’s a list of questions to think about that may help point you in the right direction.
#1 – Which species of birds are you hoping to attract?
Although most birds will be attracted to your bird feeder regardless of which type it is, your choice can affect which species turn up in your garden. The bigger the bird feeder, the bigger the species of bird. If you opt for a large bird feeder, larger species such as pigeons, blackbirds, doves, crows and magpies may start getting their three square meals a day from your garden – sometimes at the expense of smaller species! If you’d prefer to feed smaller birds only, choosing a smaller feeder is the way forward.
#2 – How easy is it to fill?
While no bird feeder is going to be impossible or very difficult to fill, some are harder than others, so if you’re the type of person who wants to be able to fill your bird feeder in a matter of seconds, you’re better opting for ones that are easy to fill.
#3 – Can you see the birds?
It may sound like a silly question, but visibility is key if you like watching the birds in your garden. You’d be surprised just how many people don’t think about this then realise they can’t see anything from their kitchen window! If you’re a keen bird watcher or would just like to watch the birds enjoy the feast you’ve left for them, always take a look from your kitchen window or from the window you’re likely to be looking through before deciding on a spot.
#4 – Is the bird feeder easy to clean?
There’s nothing worse than a bird feeder that’s hard to clean; it makes life a lot harder than it should be and ultimately leads to mould, bacteria, and a generally unhealthy food source for the birds. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a bird feeder that is easily cleanable. Luckily most feeders on the market today are easy to dismantle (if required), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one that’s quick and easy to clean, bit always read the reviews just to make sure!
#5 – Is it sturdy?
Given the fact that bird feeders will be outside in all weathers and conditions and will have birds landing on them and feeding from them on a daily basis, it’s essential that they are durable; otherwise, you’ll be replacing your bird feeder as often as you’re replacing your seed! Always check what potential feeders are made from – wood, metal, plastic? Avoid cheap bird feeders as these tend to be the least durable and often fail within months. Buy the best quality you can afford.
#6 – Which brand is it?
While it’s true that buying from a recognised brand doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a quality product, it does (typically) mean that you’ll get some form of guarantee and can rely on their customer service to resolve any issues that you may encounter. When buying a bird feeder, always research the brand to see what others say about their products and customer service. I always contact the company to find out about their guarantees as this gives me peace of mind when purchasing. Whether you do the same is up to you, but I highly recommend doing so.
#7 – Is the bird feeder squirrel and rat proof?
Although no bird feeder can be 100% squirrel and rat proof, there are many designs out there that make it a damn sight harder for pesky rodents to wolf down all the seed that was meant for the birds! When looking at products, always see if there is in-built squirrel/rat protection or whether any reviews have had any issues with squirrels and/or rats having easy access to the feeder. Of course, the location of your bird feeder is just as important as the type of feeder, but it’s always nice to see that the bird food is being protected!
#8 – Will the food get wet?
Again, it’s almost impossible to ensure that every grain of seed says dry in all weather conditions, but the last thing you want is your bird food to become soggy. Not only will this make it harder for the birds to eat, but moisture is also a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, i.e. the last two things you (and the birds!) want in the food. Different designs tend to be more waterproof than others, but buying one that will keep most of the trash weather out is always a good idea.
#9 – Is it comfortable for birds?
Ok, so this may sound a silly question and isn’t one that you can answer directly, but you’d be surprised at just how many bird feeders are more about looks than functionality! Will the birds be able to stand and feed with ease? Is there enough room for several birds? Try and think about functionality and practicality over aesthetics.
#10 – Can you see how much is left from your house?
Yes, this may seem (yet) a(mother) silly question (and one that ties in with question three), but we’re just thinking of you! It makes life much easier if you can see how much food is left in the feeder from your house as this will save you a walk into the garden. Of course, if you enjoy that brief walk, this question is null and void, but we thought it’d be best if we pointed it out just in case!
If you’ve got this point and you’re still not sure which bird feeder to choose, fear ye not, we have compiled a list of our top five birds feeders currently available on the market today (and why). We’ve selected a wide array of feeder types to ensure that all needs and preferences are catered for, so no matter which type you prefer, they’ll be one in our list!
Top Five Best Bird Feeders
In this section, we’ll be examining our top five bird feeders currently available on the market and explaining why we have chosen each particular, so regardless of your budget or preference, they’ll be something in the list for you. Oh, and don’t forget, if you have any questions regarding bird feeders, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
We’ve included the most popular types of bird feeders in this list to ensure that all bases are covered, and all tastes are catered for.
#1 – Hanging Tube Squirrel-proof Bird Feeder
When the marketing blurb of a bird feeder states that it is squirrel-proof, I usually raise an eyebrow given the number purportedly ‘squirrel-proof’ bird feeders I’ve bought that have been anything but! However, this bird feeder actually lives up to its billing. I’m blessed with numerous bird species visiting my garden each and every week, but there’s also a rather large squirrel contingent too, which means there usually isn’t a day where a squirrel won’t try and help themselves to the seed. Therefore, a very robust bird feeder is an absolute given; otherwise, the birds will go hungry, and the greedy squirrels will fatten themselves up!
This bird feeder has been in my garden for seven weeks, and the squirrels have yet to break in. Other bird feeders have only lasted a matter of weeks before being breached, so this one is certainly impressive in this regard. However, this bird feeder wouldn’t sit atop our list if it wasn’t great in other areas, too, so let’s take a look at other areas in which it impresses.
Keeping a bird feeder clean is very important; however, some bird feeders are a little trickier to clean than others. Luckily, the flip-top lid makes this feeder easy to clean, as well as easy to fill. It has two feeding ports (one on either side), so more than one bird can feed at any times, with ports if enough to allowing quick feeding but small enough to stop squirrels and rats from getting inside. The stainless steel components make it rustproof, and the heavy-duty PVC tube is exceptionally durable, which means it won’t fall apart in harsh conditions or if constantly ‘attacked’ by unwanted guests (those pesky squirrels again!).
The only downside is the fact that there are only two ports, which, although is a pretty standard number, it is nice to have three or four (or more), just so more birds can feed at once. However, overall, if you’re looking for a well-priced tube bird feeder that will keep pests out and is perfect for small birds, this is the one you should opt for.
#2 – Sahara Sailor Bird Feeder – Antique Copper Finish
Ok, so I’ll be honest here and admit that this bird feeder is number two on our list partially because it looks really good…but it’s also a great bird feeder too! If you’re a fan of copper coloured things or antique-looking things, this bird feeder will be right up your street. However, it isn’t just a really good looking bird feeder; it’s actually very functional too.
As you can see from the picture, it has different feeding methods on each side – a mesh wire on one and a bottom-feeding tray on the other. This is a superb choice if you’re looking to attracting as many different bird types to your garden as different species like to feed in different ways. It’s actually pretty large in size, totalling 12 inches in length and 6 inches in width, and being able to carry 2.5lbs of total seed. This means it is big enough to accommodate a wide variety of bird sizes, so if you’re a fan of all birds great and small, this is undoubtedly a bird feeder to consider. Furthermore, it’s also really easy to fill and clean thanks to its easy to open the lid, which can be locked and unlocked with a simple twist.
Having carefully examined the reviews, some users have reported rust. Others have said it hasn’t stood up well to squirrels’ attacks’, but from our experience and taking into the remainder of the reviews, this bird feeder is definitely worth the money. At the end of the day, if there are squirrels about, at some point, they’re going to find a way into the bird feeder (‘by any means necessary!) so unless your garden is rife with squirrel activity, I wouldn’t be put off by the very small number of negative reviews.
#3 – Six-Port Weatherproof Hanging Bird Feeder
If you’re looking for a hanging bird feeder with multiple ports that’ll deal with pretty much all weather conditions, this bird feeder is a superb choice. While it is, of course, true that no bird feeder is 100% weatherproof, our experience of this particular model leads us to believe that it is super-durable and will withstand quite a shellacking! But this isn’t just against the weather; it also stands up well to everything else too. The (six) aluminium perches are both rustproof and durable, and the lid and base are chew-resistant (a great line of defence against those pesky squirrels!). Plus, for a long tube feeder, it’s actually pretty easy to clean and fill/refill.
The only downside is the inability to screw a tray at the bottom. Most tube feeders have threads at the bottom that allow you to attach a bottom feeder tray, but unfortunately, this feeder doesn’t have this option. It’s a shame because this would be number one on our list if it did, but it’s an excellent bird feeder nonetheless.
#4 – Large Acrylic Window Bird Feeder
There’s no way we could compile a list of our five best without including a window bird feeder, so here’s our top pick. Window bird feeders are the perfect choice for those wanting a real-life, up-close view of birds feeding. It was actually my dad’s window bird feeder that got me hooked in bird feeders and bird watching when I was a child, and no matter where I’ve lived, a window bird feeder has been installed. The great thing about window feeders is that you don’t even need a garden; all you need is a window!
But what makes this model better than some of the other options out there? Firstly, it’s made from high-quality, clear acrylic, meaning you’ll not only get an exceptional view of the birds, but it’ll be durable and stand up to harsh weather. Secondly, it’s super-easy to install using the three extra-strong suction cups. Thirdly, the tray is not easy to remove, clean, and fill; it’s also got a divider meaning you can add different types of seeds to attract different bird species. Fourthly, it’s one of the best choices for keeping squirrels and rats out as they’re highly unlikely to feed from things that are so close to buildings, windows, or where humans are; luckily, birds aren’t as shy and wary! And lastly, it has numerous drainage holes to keep the seed dry. All in all, it’s a fantastic bird feeder and the best window bird feeder in our opinion.
#5 – Maypole Anti-Fungal Heavy Duty Bird Feeder
Last but certainly not least is this heavy-duty table bird feeder from The Hutch Company. The reason we’ve chosen this one over the raft of other table bird feeders out there is for several reasons. Firstly, it’s British made rather than imported, which, from our experience, means it will be of higher quality. Secondly, it’s been treated with an anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent diseases and rot from spreading, which is often the bane of anyone who owns a wooden bird feeder table. Thirdly, it’s straightforward to put together. I know how confusing and frustrating some bird feeder tables can be to construct, but this one of the most straightforward ones I’ve ever built. Fourthly, the large surface areas of the table means you can put lots of seed/food down to attract lots of birds. And finally, it’s made from high-quality materials that have been treated to ensure they last.
While it’s true that table feeders are more exposed to weather (and therefore wet seed) than other types of bird feeders, as well as the fact they are more easily accessible for the likes of squirrels and rats, if you’re considering getting one, this should be the one you choose.
The Best Bird Feeders: Final Thoughts
We really hope that the above information and ‘top five’ list helps you to make the right decision where your bird feeder(s) is concerned. Although choosing the wrong type of bird feeder for your garden/circumstances certainly isn’t the end of the world, it pays to take a step back and consider what might be best for you and the birds you see in your garden. The above five bird feeders are what we feel are the best in their respective ‘classes’; however, our word isn’t gospel, and we’d always encourage you to carry out your own research when buying any bird feeder to ensure you make the absolute best decision. Of course, you’re more than welcome to simply select one from the above list and make a purchase straight away if you so so desire! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.