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Bird Feeders - How to Choose

So, you have decided you are going to purchase a bird feeder. Looking at the large selection and choosing the best one can be rather daunting. Here is some basic information that can help you pick out the feeder that is right for you. There are basically 3 different types of feeders: hopper, tube, and platform. Each of these styles appeals to specific birds. Some are easier to use and maintain than others while some incorporate special design features that deter squirrels; all will work.

This Hopper Feeder is being visited by two birds - Hoppers are easy to land on.

Hopper Feeders

This type comes in a lot of decorative styles but, generally, is shaped like a house, barn, gazebo or covered bridge. They are designed to hold a lot of seed and thus cut down on the number of times you need to fill them. They are easy to fill. The top usually comes completely off allowing access to the entire seed holding area. The sides are usually constructed of Plexiglas, making it simple to monitor when it needs to be refilled. This type of feeder can be used by all birds, large or small. It is the preferred type of feeder for Doves, Blue jays, Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Woodpeckers, as they can land on it easily. Perching is not generally the way these birds feed. They can be mounted on a pole or hung from a tree or shepherd hook. They come in wood, metal and plastic. If you are purchasing one in wood, it should be made of cedar or some other weather resistant-type of wood or wood that has been stained or painted to resist rot. The overhang/roof should completely cover the feeding platform to keep moisture off the seed. They entire feeder should be easy to disassemble for cleaning. There are some models in this style designed to deter squirrels.

Tube Feeders have smaller areas and holes, making this a prime choice for smaller birds and a bad choice for squirrels!

Tube Feeders

Tube feeders are just that, tubes or cylinders with perches aligned with the holes or feeding ports distributed up and down the tube. Some have trays at the bottom of the tube and others a roof or protective cap on top. Droll Yankee feeders are the most likely to discourage squirrels, and there are many models specifically designed for this purpose. Tube feeders come in models designed to hold either large or small seeds, as well as models for upside down feeding. This type of feeder attracts small birds like Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches and Finches. They are generally made from some type of plastic. Be sure the feeding ports are reinforced with metal collars to protect them from chewing by squirrels. They are easy to monitor for filling, but the single tube varieties, do require more frequent filling. As the food is eaten, the number of available feeding stations decreases, thus making it necessary to keep it filled. Avoid styles that have a “dead space” at the bottom of the tube not accessible to the birds. Seed just sits there and molds, which is unhealthy for the birds. Tube feeders are a little more challenging to fill. There are funnels specifically designed to help with this. Be sure you can disassemble easily for cleaning.

Platform feeders attract all wildlife who enjoy birdseed

Plaform Feeders

Platform feeders are designed for either hanging or placement on the ground. Some are simply a platform and others have a roof over the platform. They are similar in appearance to many of the hopper feeders without the sides. All types of birds will come to this feeder. Depending on whether you are hanging it or have it on the ground, it will also provide a food source for a variety of other animals. Many birds, particularly Doves and Cardinals will ground feed. Be aware though, that squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and other animals enjoy birdseed, so if you do not want to attract them, avoid this approach. Birds feeding on the ground can be attractive to predators, such as neighborhood cats. Placing ground feeding stations at least 10 feet away from shrubs and other predator hiding places is recommended. Additionally, encircling the feeder with wire fencing that is at least 30 inches high and in an 8 foot or greater diameter from the feeder will deter predators. Platform feeders, especially those without roofs, need to have drainage holes to allow for water runoff. If a storm is anticipated, it is best to bring in this type of feeder or cover it. If this is not possible, be sure to clean out the old, wet seed and replenish with new. Wet seed molds and rots easily. This is very unhealthy for birds to eat, and they will eat it if there are few other sources of food available in the winter.