The Best Bird Feeders of 2021

Avian enthusiasts and backyard birders take pleasure in watching their feathered friends. The best bird feeders attract multiple species and allow humans to provide appropriate sustenance in the safest ways.

By Carol Benton | Published Oct 26, 2021 12:58 PM

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Best Bird Feeders Options

Photo: homedepot.com

It’s only natural for humans to watch birds with fascination, affection, and a touch of envy at their ability to fly freely. The practice of setting up feeding stations to attract diverse species of birds dates back hundreds of years.

Today, the best bird feeders make it easy to offer birdseed and other food substances for specific species while deterring the intrusion of squirrels and other critters. Bird feeders are designed for suspension from hooks or tree branches, mounting on vertical poles, attaching to windows, or placement on flat ground surfaces. The many options meet the needs of both birds and bird lovers.

Keep reading to learn what you need to know before selecting a new bird feeder for your yard, and check out some of the best bird feeders on the market below.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Heritage Farms Absolute Bird Feeder Pole and Hanger
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Perky-Pet Copper Panorama Hanging Bird Feeder
  3. BEST TUBE FEEDER: Gray Bunny Classic Metal Tube Feeder
  4. BEST PLATFORM FEEDER: Duncraft Covered Bridge Feeder with Pole & Baffle
  5. BEST SQUIRREL-PROOF FEEDER: Squirrel Buster Standard Squirrel-proof Bird Feeder
  6. BEST FEEDER FOR WINDOWS: Nature Anywhere Window Bird House Feeder
  7. BEST HOPPER FEEDER: Duncraft Deluxe Cedar Hopper Feeder
  8. BEST GROUND-FEEDER TRAY: Gardman Compact Feeder Trays, Pack of 6
  9. BEST SUET FEEDER: Worth Garden Red Cedar Wood Double Suet Bird Feeder
  10. BEST NECTAR FEEDER: Gosiz Hummingbird Feeder, Glass Bird Feeder
Best Bird Feeders Options

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Bird Feeders

Many bird lovers position multiple types of bird feeders throughout their outdoor spaces. Within these feeders, they offer a variety of seeds and bird-food items to attract an array of species. Ahead, learn more about the different types of bird feeders along with tips about how to use them to support a diverse population of feathered friends.

Ground

While most birds will eat from the ground, some species are especially attracted to food placed at ground level. It’s their preferred method of acquiring nutrition. Ground-feeding species include doves, pigeons, sparrows, cardinals, grouse, quail, juncos, starlings, buntings, and more. To attract these species, bird lovers may place inviting foods in low-to-the-ground feeding trays.

Ground-feeding trays on short legs offer a useful setup option to attract birds, and many bird lovers offer a variety of foods in separate trays placed around the yard. Food items that attract various species include black oil sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, millet, cracked corn, peanuts, and dried fruit.

Place only a day’s worth of feed in trays to avoid a buildup of treats that will attract raccoons, mice, rats, and other unwelcome creatures. Rake or sweep the ground to remove spilled seed and shells on a regular basis. Place the ground-feeding trays under the roof of a covered patio or gazebo to protect the seed from rain.

Tube

Tube bird feeders are popular with avian enthusiasts, and many bird species are known to eat heartily from them. A tube bird feeder features an elongated cylinder to hold the birdseed along with small openings and perches positioned along its length where birds can alight and access the seed. Many squirrel-resistant bird feeders exhibit a tube design, and these feeders offer the additional advantage of keeping the birdseed dry.

Tube feeders are designed to hang from hooks or tree branches. In many feeders, the tubes are constructed from heavy-duty transparent plastic, allowing users to view the seed level at all times. The bases and lids may be made of plastic or metal, and they are removable for cleaning and refilling the feeders.

Depending on the size of the cylinders and feeding ports, bird lovers can offer a variety of seed sizes in tube feeders, attracting an array of bird species. In general, tube feeders tend to attract small birds such as sparrows, chickadees, titmice, finches, and grosbeaks.

Hopper

Depending on its size, a hopper feeder can hold a large amount of birdseed. The principle of the hopper involves a tapered container that allows its contents to empty out into a tray at the bottom. As birds eat the seed from the feeding tray, the remaining seed stored in the hopper descends and automatically discharges, allowing birds to receive fresh seed on demand.

Hopper bird feeders may hang from hooks or tree branches, or they may be mounted on poles. Many varieties exhibit designs that resemble tiny houses, including pitched roofs that keep the seed dry. Clear, plastic sides enable bird lovers to keep an eye on the seed level.

Hopper feeders are more difficult to clean than tray feeders, but many feature lift-off roofs to make the task easier. It’s convenient for humans to load a hopper feeder with a large quantity of seed that will last for days or weeks. But if the seed becomes damp and moldy, it can be unhealthy for the birds.

Suet

The term suet refers to beef fat, and it’s a tasty cold-weather treat for many bird species, including chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, wrens, jays, starlings, and woodpeckers. While raw suet goes rancid in above-freezing temperatures, rendered suet lasts longer. Still, suet should be offered only in cold weather, as suet’s melting fat can coat bird feathers, causing danger to the birds.

Suet bird feeders usually feature cages or baskets made from wire or plastic mesh. Bird lovers place suet cakes into these containers, and the birds access the food through openings in the mesh.

Suet cakes are fashioned from a mixture of suet (or a substitute such as peanut butter) and other ingredients. Cornmeal, birdseed, peanuts, and fruits are frequently included in suet cakes. Users may avoid spoilage by keeping suet cakes refrigerated until they are placed outdoors for birds in cold weather.

Thistle Seed

Nyjer seed (also known as thistle seed) is a favorite for many bird species, including goldfinches, purple finches, juncos, quail, mourning doves, sparrows, and more. Although pure thistle seed is expensive, it is often mixed with other seeds and packaged for feeding birds.

Thistle bird feeders feature wire mesh, tube-shaped construction or tiny feeding portals where the birds access the small thistle seed. Small birds cling to the mesh and pull the seed through its openings, or they sit on perches to eat from the small, thistle-sized portals.

Alternatively, bird lovers may offer thistle seed in hanging mesh bags called thistle socks. Finches and other small birds cling to the mesh and feed on the thistle as they pull the seeds through openings in the mesh fabric.

Nectar

Many backyard birders enjoy watching hummingbirds, the tiniest members of the avian community. With their bright shiny colors and swift darting movements, hummingbirds are fascinating to watch.

Enthusiasts attract hummingbirds by offering nectar in brightly colored feeders made from glass or plastic. The liquid food is poured into the bottle-shaped feeder, and a base with perches provides access for the hummingbirds.

While commercially made nectars are available, many birders make their own mixtures of one part sugar to four parts water. Experts recommend that red dye should not be added to hummingbird nectar and that premixed nectar should be refrigerated until used. To keep them clean, nectar feeders should be emptied, washed, and refilled every other day or at least twice each week.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bird Feeders 

Depending on location and a desire to attract specific bird species, shoppers may consider feeders with particular designs. Various types of bird feeders facilitate the provision of diverse seeds and other suitable food items. Of additional importance are durable and high-quality materials that are safe for birds and resistant to other critters to meet the high standards of bird lovers.

Material

Bird feeders are generally constructed from metal, plastic, wood, or combinations of these materials. Shoppers may look for materials that are sturdy, weather resistant, rustproof, waterproof, and squirrel resistant.

Heavy-duty polycarbonate plastic provides durability and see-through transparency for many bird feeders. However, squirrels are known to chew through plastic whenever they can. Metal construction is more squirrel resistant, but metal is susceptible to rust.

Attractive wooden bird feeders feature designs that resemble small houses or gazebos. Natural cedar is a durable wood that repels insects, and birds are comfortable with the material. The downside of wooden bird feeders is that squirrels may chew on the wood.

Food

Various types of seeds form the basic diet for backyard birds. Sunflower and safflower seeds are favorites of many species, while tiny nyjer or thistle seeds attract finches, buntings, and other small birds. Millet, flax, and cracked corn are favorites of ground-feeding birds, while peanuts provide a delectable treat for woodpeckers, titmice, and jays.

Consider the species of birds that are native to a particular region, and offer food to attract the desirable feathered friends. Be sure to keep seeds and other bird foods dry, as damp food quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mold that can be harmful to birds. Clean up spilled seeds and empty shells around a bird feeder to deter rodents and other unwelcome critters who may come to dine.

Overall Design

Avid birders frequently accumulate a collection of bird feeders in various designs, placing them throughout an outdoor space to attract species of diverse sizes and eating preferences. Typically, feeders may be suspended from hooks or tree branches or they may be mounted on poles. Window feeders that attach to exterior panes via suction cups create entertaining venues for bird watching from the comfort of a favorite armchair.

Effective bird feeders are easy to clean and refill, and they provide a roof or other covering along with drainage to keep the birdseed dry. Although a tray bird feeder can accommodate ground-feeding birds, it should be changed daily to prevent spoilage as well as the presence of unwelcome nocturnal visitors.

In many locations, an active squirrel population presents a challenge for avian enthusiasts. Hanging squirrel-resistant bird feeders with auto-closing mechanisms prevents squirrels from accessing the birds’ food. Additionally, feeders mounted atop poles with cone-shaped baffles may deter squirrels from climbing up to feast on the birdseed.

Our Top Picks

With a plethora of viable bird feeder options on the market, bird lovers may end up spending a lot of time searching for the best bird feeders to suit their needs. To help with the selection process, the following are some of the best recommendations for feeders in an array of styles and sizes available at various price points.

Best Overall

Best Bird Feeders Options: Heritage Farms Absolute Bird Feeder
Photo: bestnest.com

Use this sturdy metal hopper-style bird feeder from Heritage Farms to attract cardinals, finches, jays, sparrows, titmice, woodpeckers, and more. It’s designed to accommodate a variety of feed options, including sunflower seeds and kernels, safflower seeds, mixed seeds, cracked corn, and peanut chunks.

This feeder holds a hefty 10 quarts (15 pounds) of birdseed, and the seed level is always visible through the clear plastic windows. Lift the roof for easy cleaning, and fill and lock the feeder from the back.

Use the 15-inch steel bracket hanger to suspend this feeder from a hook or a tree branch. Alternatively, users can mount the feeder on the included steel pole. Designed for strength and convenience, the 4-foot, 9-inch-tall pole features four sections along with a 12-inch ground socket that allows for seasonal removal.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 12 by 14.5 by 9.5 inches
  • Capacity: 10 quarts (15 pounds) of birdseed
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or mount on a vertical pole

Pros

  • Metal construction prevents chewing by squirrels
  • Options for hanging or pole-mounting, with included steel pole
  • Easy to clean, fill, and lock
  • Clear plastic windows to view seed level

Cons

  • May not be entirely squirrel-proof
  • Large size may not be preferred by some users

Best Bang For the Buck

Best Bird Feeders Options: Perky-Pet Copper Panorama Hanging Bird Feeder
Photo: homedepot.com

Enjoy watching the birds as they sit on the perches encircling this hopper-style bird feeder from Perky-Pet. Made of copper-colored metal, the roof protects the seed from the rain, and a clear plastic cylinder holds up to 2 pounds of birdseed. This hopper design allows the seed to dispense into the tray and to stop dispensing when the tray is full.

A Sure-Lock Cap system keeps the roof in place, preventing squirrels from raiding the seed hopper. Meanwhile, the birds can perch and eat all around the feeder on the 360-degree encircling perch.

Hang this feeder from a hook or tree branch with the metal wire hanger. When it’s time to clean the feeder and replenish the seed, the roof lifts up along the length of the hanging wire, providing easy access to the cylindrical seed hopper.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 8.25 by 8.25 by 9.25 inches
  • Capacity: 2 pounds of birdseed
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch

Pros

  • Metal roof protects seed from the rain
  • 360-degree clear view of hopper’s contents
  • Perches encircle the entire feeder
  • Patented Sure-Lock Cap keeps roof in place

Cons

  • May not be entirely squirrel-proof
  • Not for mounting on a pole

Best Tube Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Classic Metal Tube Feeder
Photo: amazon.com

The green color of this tube feeder from Gray Bunny blends with the outdoor environment, and the metal construction of the lid, base, and perches prevents squirrels from chewing. Use this feeder to target multiple species, including junco, woodpecker, dove, finch, wren, robin, chickadee, and nuthatch.

Made of clear, thick polycarbonate plastic, the central tube is rigid and does not bend. It’s fully transparent and holds up to 5 cups of birdseed. When it’s time to clean the feeder and replenish the seed, the lid lifts up easily.

With its metal hanger, the feeder can hang from a hook or tree branch. Place it near a window or patio to enjoy hours of pleasurable bird-watching.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 5.25 inches in diameter by 14.5 inches tall
  • Capacity: 5 cups of birdseed
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch

Pros

  • Chew-proof metal construction
  • Clear sturdy plastic tube
  • Multiple perches on all sides

Cons

  • May not be entirely squirrel-proof
  • Not for larger birds

Best Platform Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Duncraft Covered Bridge Feeder
Photo: duncraft.com

Mount this platform feeder from Duncraft on the included pole that features a squirrel baffle. Then, enjoy watching birds perch beneath the roof of this tiny replica of a covered bridge. Featuring environmentally-friendly construction, this platform feeder is fabricated from recycled plastic.

The heavy-duty sectional mounting pole stands 80 inches tall and features a screw-in auger for stability. It includes a cone baffle measuring 14 inches in diameter. Squirrels cannot climb past the baffle, so they don’t invade the birds’ platform.

With fly-through openings, birds can easily access their food from all four sides, and the roof of the covered-bridge design keeps the seed dry. The feeding platform is equipped with a drainage system to prevent mold growth. Due to its open design, cleaning and replenishing this feeder are easy tasks.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 19 by 12.6 by 10 inches with 80-inch-tall mounting pole
  • Capacity: 2 pounds of birdseed
  • Mounting: Mount on the included vertical pole

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Fly-through openings on all sides
  • Included mounting pole
  • Included cone-shaped squirrel baffle

Cons

  • Not intended for hanging
  • Squirrels may be able to leap onto the platform from above

Best Squirrel-Proof Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Squirrel Buster Standard
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to bird feeders, there seems to be an ongoing battle between bird lovers and squirrels. Thankfully, this bird feeder from Squirrel Buster features an innovative design to deter squirrels while keeping the seed available for the birds.

Hang this bird feeder from a hook or tree branch with at least 18 inches of clearance all around. This prevents the squirrels from reaching over to access the birdseed while maintaining a foothold on a nearby branch or pole. Forced to climb onto the feeder, squirrels soon learn that their weight triggers a closing mechanism, and they’re unable to access the birds’ food. Meanwhile, the lightweight birds enjoy feeding from the perches, as their weight does not trigger the closing mechanism.

Along with the weight-triggered closing mechanism, this squirrel-proof feeder is constructed from chew-proof materials. In addition to metal parts, the feeder is fabricated from RoxResinTM, a material that is chew-proof, waterproof, and rustproof.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 5 inches in diameter by 13.25 inches tall
  • Capacity: 0.75 quart of birdseed
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch with at least 18 inches clearance

Pros

  • Squirrel resistant
  • Waterproof
  • Chew-proof
  • Rustproof

Cons

  • Not intended for mounting on a pole

Best Feeder For Windows

Best Bird Feeders Options: Window Bird House Feeder
Photo: amazon.com

Use the four included heavy-duty suction cups to attach this Nature Anywhere bird feeder to the exterior surface of a windowpane. It’s constructed from sturdy, see-through polycarbonate plastic. The two slide-out feeding trays hold up to 2 cups of birdseed, and with a built-in air circulation system, the feeder deters the formation of mold in the trays.

Users may attract a variety of bird species by offering two different types of seeds, including sunflower seeds and thistle seeds, along with peanuts, mealworms, and more. With their simple design, the dual trays are easy to remove for cleaning and refilling.

Place the window bird feeder far away from ledges and branches to make it virtually squirrel-proof. Squirrels cannot climb on glass windowpanes, so their efforts to steal the birds’ food are foiled when they cannot leap onto the feeder from a nearby surface.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 10 by 4.25 by 9.75 inches
  • Capacity: 2 cups of birdseed
  • Mounting: Attach to exterior windowpane with included suction cups

Pros

  • Clear sturdy polycarbonate plastic
  • See-through design for close-up bird-watching through a window
  • Two feeding trays

Cons

  • May not be entirely squirrel-proof
  • Does not hold a large amount of birdseed

Best Hopper Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Deluxe Cedar Hopper Feeder
Photo: duncraft.com

This hopper-style bird feeder from Duncraft features cedar construction along with a metal cable hanger. The kiln-dried inland red cedar wood is derived from sustainable reforested sources. For long-lasting quality, the oils in cedar naturally resist damage from insects and rot, making it a durable material.

The central hopper is constructed with see-through plastic panels on two sides, so the seed level is clearly visible. It holds an ample 4 pounds of birdseed, requiring less frequent refilling than many bird feeders. The roof and sides keep the seed dry as it descends into the feeding trays on either side of the feeder. Natural perches allow the birds to access their food.

When it’s time for cleaning and refilling the feeder, the roof lifts up so the hopper can be filled from the top.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 11 by 9.5 by 9.75 inches
  • Capacity: 4 pounds of birdseed
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch

 

Pros

  • Natural cedar wood construction
  • Ample-size hopper
  • Sturdy metal cable for hanging
  • See-through sides

Cons

  • Squirrels may chew on the cedar wood
  • Not intended for mounting on a pole

Best Ground-Feeder Tray

Best Bird Feeders Options: Gardman Compact Feeder Trays
Photo: bestnest.com

This six-pack of ground-feeder trays from Gardman allows users to create multiple feeding stations throughout an outdoor space. Use the trays to offer different types of seeds for different species of birds. Cardinals, bluebirds, blackbirds, doves, mockingbirds, nuthatches, orioles, quails, sparrows, wrens, and many more species will access food from these metal trays.

Placed on the flat surface of a patio, deck, or level piece of ground, each feeder tray holds 0.5 quart (or 0.75 pounds) of seeds such as thistle seed, sunflower seed, safflower seed, and more. Alternatively, corn, fruit, suet, nuts, and mealworms may be offered in the trays.

Due to the open design of these ground-feeder trays, they may attract squirrels, rodents, or other small animals. For this reason, users should change the food daily and keep an eye on the feeder trays when they are loaded with seeds and other edible items.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 7.125 by 7.125 by 2 inches (each)
  • Capacity: 0.5 quarts, 0.75 pounds of birdseed (each)
  • Mounting: Place on deck, patio, or other flat surface

Pros

  • Six-pack facilitates setting up multiple feeding stations
  • Sturdy metal construction
  • Convenient size
  • Attractive to ground-feeding birds

Cons

  • Squirrels and other small animals can access food

Best Suet Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Worth Garden 7
Photo: homedepot.com

Constructed from natural cedar wood, this bird feeder from Worth Garden attracts birds to tasty and healthy suet cakes, suitable for winter and cool-weather feeding. Each side of the feeder features a platform for birds to perch while eating from a suet cake held in a metal wire basket.

The task of cleaning and refilling this type of bird feeder is neater and simpler than with many bird feeders; there’s no need to pour birdseed from a bag or container. On each side of the feeder, a simple metal wire enclosure forms a basket that holds a suet cake.

The feeder resembles a small cottage with a pitched roof that keeps the suet dry. For refilling the suet-cake baskets, the entire roof of the feeder lifts up, sliding along the plastic-coated metal cable hanger.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 7 by 7 inches
  • Capacity: Two suet cakes
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch

Pros

  • Refill by simply inserting fresh suet cakes
  • Attractive design
  • Cedar wood
  • Perches provide access to suet on both sides

Cons

  • May not be entirely squirrel-proof
  • Squirrels may chew the cedar wood
  • Not intended for mounting on a pole

Best Nectar Feeder

Best Bird Feeders Options: Hummingbird Feeder, Glass Bird Feeder
Photo: amazon.com

Each hummingbird nectar feeder from Gosiz is uniquely fabricated from hand-blown glass. The swirling colors in the glass form attractive patterns, and the metal material at the base is rust resistant. An upgraded seal prevents leaks, and the entire feeder is made from nontoxic materials.

Simply unscrew the glass bottle from the base to fill it with up to 32 ounces of liquid hummingbird nectar. The transparent glass construction allows users to observe the volume of nectar in the bottle.

The task of cleaning the feeder is easy due to the wide-mouth design of the nectar bottle. Use the included brush to clean the glass bottle and wash the base. Along with the cleaning brush, the nectar feeder set includes an ant moat, an S-shaped hook, and a rope for hanging.

Product Specs 

  • Dimensions: 10.6 by 6.4 by 6.2 inches
  • Capacity: 32 ounces of nectar
  • Mounting: Hang from a hook or tree branch

Pros

  • Unique hand-blown glass
  • Vibrant colors
  • Wide-mouth bottle for easy cleaning and refilling
  • Leak-proof seal

Cons

  • May attract wasps

Our Verdict

While needs vary among bird enthusiasts, the Heritage Farms Absolute Bird Feeder is an all-around top choice. It holds a large quantity of birdseed and may be suspended from its metal hanger or mounted on a pole. With metal construction, it’s both durable and squirrel resistant. For those who are looking for a less expensive option, consider the Perky-Pet Panorama Hanging Bird Feeder for its see-through hopper with perches all around..

How We Chose the Best Bird Feeders 

The recommendations for the best bird feeders are based on research and comparison among top options. In addition to researching the best practices for feeding birds in backyard settings, we investigated numerous bird feeders featuring diverse designs to meet the needs of a wide array of bird species. After reviewing many of the most popular options, we paid particular attention to bird feeders that provide safe environments and easy access for birds. We also carefully considered feeders that deter squirrels and other unwelcome visitors.

Additionally, the human point of view for avian enthusiasts who desire to provide optimal support for their feathered friends was a factor. For this reason, the recommended bird feeders feature durable and safe materials with designs that make it easy to clean and refill with food on a regular basis.

FAQs 

Purchasing one bird feeder can be the prelude to a lifelong birding hobby as well as the beginning of a collection of clever and attractive structures for feeding and viewing birds. Before making a final selection, the following answers to frequently asked questions may provide additional insight into the optimal procedures for selecting and using bird feeders.

Q. Are plastic or metal bird feeders better? 

In locations where squirrels might chew on the bird feeder, a metal material will hold up better than plastic. Alternatively, a sturdy polycarbonate plastic is rustproof, unlike many metal materials.

Q. Where’s the best place to put a bird feeder? 

Place a bird feeder near water and sheltering plants, and away from predators, such as cats. Avoid noisy and busy locations where squirrels can easily jump onto the bird feeder.

Q. How often should I clean my bird feeder? 

Empty the bird feeder every 2 weeks. Wash with mild soap and water, and let it air dry. Then, refill with fresh seed.

Q. Which bird feeder attracts most birds?

Hopper-style bird feeders attract many species of birds, as fresh seed is kept dry in the hopper and descends into the feeding tray on demand.

Q. How can I deter squirrels from my bird feeder? 

A cone-shaped baffle attached to a pole can deter squirrels from climbing up to a bird feeder. Alternatively, hanging bird feeders specially designed to close off access under the weight of a squirrel provide a deterrent to those unwelcome guests.

Q. Can bird feeders attract rats, mice, and other pests? 

Yes. Rodents and other pests may be attracted to the seeds and shells that the birds drop from the feeder. Use a seed-catching tray, clean up regularly, and install baffles to discourage unwelcome critters from accessing the bird feeder.