August 9, 2021

Types of Bird Feeders: A Guide to Attracting Fine Feathered Friends

Katie and Gene Hamilton

Bring Binocular News
A suet cake is a popular treat for birds and easy to offer your favorite birds

Choose a bird feeder to invite and entice birds to your property 

Choose from a variety of types of bird feeders and fill it with food to attract local and visiting backyard birds. Place it in an inviting location and lure fine feathered friends with a bounty of bird seed and suet. Add a bird feeder outside your window and you’re almost guaranteed of live entertainment, not to mention enjoyment. During the pandemic many were introduced to the joy of bird watching in backyards. It reminds us of the pleasure of having feathered friends so close to home.  The food in feeders offer birds a supplemental food source because most of their food comes from nature. But it’s become almost a national pastime luring songbirds, finches and hummingbirds close to home.

Location, location, location

The wide variety of bird feeders matches the even wider variety of birds.
The wide variety of types of bird feeders matches the even wider variety of birds.

Place a bird feeder about 30 feet away from a window or patio door where you can see it.  We keep binoculars nearby to get a closeup look at the activity. You can prevent birds from being confused by the glass using decals or by hanging streamers four to five inches apart to reflect ultraviolet light.

Locate different types of bird feeders near shrubs or trees where blue jays or chickadees hang out, or perch on a branch, or hide from a predator, but far away enough to deter squirrels. One solution is a feeder with a mechanism designed to automatically close with the weight of a squirrel. Or attach a squirrel guard wrapped around a pole or hanging from a feeders. The guard is made of a slippery surface to prevent squirrels from raiding the feeder. Many of us spend a great deal of time and energy trying to squirrel-proof our bird feeders and yards often to no avail.

We had great success keeping ants away from our hummingbird feeder with an $8 ant guard.  It’s a red plastic cup filled with water hung between the hanging plant stand and the feeder. It acts like a moat to stop the ants from climbing down to the feeder’s irresistible nectar (sugar water) in the  feeder.   

Types of bird feeders

Here’s a rundown of the basic types of bird feeders. We found those made of plastic, glass or steel which are quicker and easier to clean then those made of wood and clay, which are porous and can be difficult to clean.

Hopper feeder

A hopper style feeder resembles a house and has a platform ledge with an efficient dispenser of food. The food lowers into a seed chamber as it is consumed through the bottom opening. Depending on its design and weather conditions the roof of a hopper feeder protects the seed; but uneaten food is susceptible to bacteria growth if it gets wet. You’ll find them designed to hang from a tree branch or stand or mounted onto a pole or fence railing.

Tray feeder


A platform or tray feeder is like a smorgasbord so it’s susceptible to any inclement weather conditions. A good feature for a platform feeder is one with a screened bottom that you can shake and clean easily with a spray of a hose. A platform or tray feeder can be mounted on a deck railing, post or hung from a tree branch or set on the ground.

Tube feeder

Specialty bird feeders

A tube feeder is just that, a tube that looks like a long tube with ports for seed and food. The food disappears and diminishes as it’s consumed. Fill the tube from the top and watch birds find it. 

Window feeders are attached to window glass with suction cups and can prevent a bird from colliding into the glass.

Suet feeder

Suet feeders are rendered fat contained in plastic coated wire mesh cages. Nail it to a tree or suspend it from a branch.

Go to any local specialty birding retailer or gardening center like Wild Birds Unlimited and you’ll find specialty feeders, many designed for the birds that frequent your neighborhood.

More specialty types of feeders

A log feeder filled with suet is made from recycled trees and appeals to birds like a woodpecker who move up and down a tree. It’s a hollowed out tree limb for birds that hang from a tree.

Nyjer feeders are for small birds with tiny beaks. They have very small slips above each perch so only small seeds fit through them. Think of a tube feeder with very tiny feeding ports.

Mealworm feeders attract bluebirds who prefer live mealworm to dry mealworms. The live ones can crawl out so a feeder with high smooth sides works best whether it’s a cup-type or platform tray.

A mixture of 2 cups water and 3/4 cup sugar is a popular blend hummers like.

A hummingbird or nectar feeder can be a saucer like tray or bowl reservoir or an upside down bottle also called a vacuum.  A mixture of sugar and water drips into ports for the hummer to access.

Share what you know about the best type of seeds with fellow birders. Get creative and combine local seed mixes suggested by local retailers who know a lot about your regional birds and their eating habits.

TIP: When replenishing seeds, always empty the old seed out before adding new seeds and include enough of a supply for several days.

Don’t forget about a birdbath, it’s a favorite place for bird bathing and drinking, but remember to clean the surface and change the water regularly. 

Are you a Bird Lover? If you are looking for remarkable limited edition prints, original artwork and books about birds, take a look at the work of Julie Zickefoose at her website We recently had the good fortune to meet Julie and share our enthusiasm for her expertise and artwork. If you read BWD magazine, the new Bird Watcher’s Digest, you’ll see the lovely cover art on the July/August 2022 edition is by Julie.


You might also be interested in:
Gene and Katie Hamilton are bird watchers who attend birding festivals and events and write about the wonders of the birding world. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Articles

November 27, 2023
November 17, 2023
June 20, 2023
June 20, 2023
October 12, 2022
May 10, 2022