Choosing the right bird feeder for your garden might seem like a difficult task, but there are some key elements to keep in mind.
The ideal bird feeder, is a decent size to allow more than just one bird to eat. It needs to be strong enough to not get too battered by squirrels, winter weather or a mass influx of birds. If you are choosing a seed feeder, it needs to be tight and keep your seeds dry. You want something that is simple to put together and thus simple enough to take apart and clean!
As you begin your bird feeding journey, you will want to start out with some feeders that will attract a a range of different birds in your garden crowd. In order to get variety you will need feeders that offer a variety of foods and ways to eat it.
Firstly though, consider the birds you can already see outside and what type of feeders they will like, then grow from there. You’ll find that some species are more likely to use one kind of feeder over another.
Bird feeders to consider are:
- Tube Feeders
- Tray Feeders
- Suet Feeders
- Nyger Feeders
- Squirrel Proof Feeders
- Window Feeders
That list might feel a little overwhelming but actually this can be quite a simple decision to make.
Tube feeders can keep seeds dry and clean — which is extremely important for your garden crowd. If they are metal or mesh this can be handy for keeping squirrels from chewing large holes in your feeders (although they do often chew any plastic parts like perches). You need a small mesh to keep your seeds in, birds can peck through and take bits of seed. You may find that seed mixes that have Nyger seeds in them will need a smaller mesh otherwise the Nyger seed falls out!
It all depends on the size of the perches, but you will most probably attract small birds such as sparrows, tits, nuthatches and finches. Larger birds like pigeons, jays and crows won’t use a feeder like this.
If the perches are above the seed ports, the feeder is made for seed-eating birds that can eat upside down, such as goldfinches. You won’t find other birds eating out of them so take that into consideration when you make your decisions.
The only draw back to tube feeders is the bottom inch. Usually this is an empty space that birds can’t access and it can get filled up with growing seeds, bacteria and mould. The best thing to do here is block out the bottom part so that seeds don’t fall down in to it.
Don’t forget to empty out old seed when adding in new seeds. Make sure you clean the feeders regularly. Seed can be put out all year around but you might find it is taken less in the Winter so you could use a smaller feeder.
If you are worried about seed mess dropping on the ground, you can purchase seed feeders with trays underneath that capture the seed.
Tray feeders attract the widest range of seed-eating birds. You will probably notice that, depending on your location, you start seeing house sparrows, robins, pigeons, starlings and sometimes blackbirds on the trays. Dunnocks do occasionally venture to a tray, but usually they stick to the ground near low-lying vegetation.
Tray feeders offer no protection against rain and snow; without excellent drainage, seeds may become wet enough to sprout, and wet seeds may also foster fungal and bacterial growth. Bird droppings can quickly soil the seed in tray feeders.
The best tray feeders are mesh and not solid, this helps with drainage and will also help with cleaning. You need to hose down or clean tray feeders regularly. Make sure you don’t overstock tray feeders, keep it topped up with enough seed for only 1 or 2 days and shake out any old seeds when adding in new.
Squirrels find tray feeders easy to use and often sit snacking for a long time. If you don’t want to feed your entire squirrel population choose a tray feeder on a chain, or add a squirrel proofing dome to a pole.
It is better to choose a tray feeder with a roof, this helps to keep seeds fairly dry from the weather.
These are excellent little plastic feeders that use suction cups to attach to glass. They are a great idea to get children engaged with your garden crowd. The best ones come with a small roof to keep seeds dry from the elements.
You get brilliant close up views of your birds eating. You need to change the feed daily though as birds stand in the food so it is easily soiled. They are easy to clean and simply clip off the suction cups.
On these feeders you will get a range of seed-eating birds like tits, robins, finches and some sparrows.
This is a little bit of a niche feeder, they are perfect for finches like chaffinches, goldfinches and also siskins. You might find blackcaps eating from them occasionally and maybe in a rare moment of bliss a bullfinch.
They are usually tube feeders with very small feeding ports and perches. You can decide what size to get depending on the size of your crowd, they come in all sizes from two perches beyond. Finches will feed in a flock so if you have a large nyger feeder you might see a lot of finches enjoying the seeds.
Squirrels aren’t too bothered by Nyger seeds so usually they won’t damage the feeders. However, if you have a really small feeder they might knock it off whilst climbing.
Suet feeders are best purchased when they are wire mesh rather than a plastic coated bag. This is less wasteful and they tend to be much sturdier for birds. You can get suet pellet feeders, nugget feeders or use a block feeder. It really depends on the food you want to source and use to feed your garden crowd.
Suet feeders are great for attracting more than just seed-eating birds & all birds need fat during the cold months & fledgling season. You can get suet with nuts, mealworms and berries for variety. You will find nuthatches, tits, starlings, dunnocks, robins and sometimes jays using them in most gardens. Our blackbird even gives it a good go!
Squirrel Proof Feeders
Have a lot of squirrels in your garden? Don’t want to use a squirrel proofing dome? The squirrel feeders are a good option, although they need to be sturdy. Choose a squirrel proof feeder that locks down the feeding ports when they climb on to it rather than one with a cage. A lot of small birds are put off by the cages and the squirrels can usually access the lids and eat out of the top.
Another option to deter squirrels is to create a feeding area for them in your garden, that way they won’t bother your birds. They can be useful in breaking down nuts for the ground feeders who will eat the debris. It can pay to not exclude them completely from your garden eco-system.