12 Types of Bird Feeders Every Backyard Birder Should Know
To attract certain types of birds, choose the right bird feeder and learn how to take care of it properly.
If you appreciate the vibrant colors and lovely birdsong winged visitors bring to your yard, the best way to attract more birds is to hang a good, durable bird feeder. Deciding on the best types of bird feeders for your home can be a daunting task, though.
Many factors come into play: yard size, weather, maintenance, budget, and the types of birds you want to attract. Continue reading to discover which bird feeders to choose to meet your needs, and the needs of the species you want to see in your backyard. Then, learn more about what each feeder should be made out of, where to hang it, and how best to keep it clean.
RELATED: The Best Bird Feeders You Can Buy
1. Tube Feeder
As a popular bird feeder for small birds, tube feeders tend to attract sparrows, chickadees, titmice, finches, and grosbeaks. Cardinals also will visit a tube feeder if it has a cardinal ring, which provides a comfortable resting spot. Designed to hang from hooks or tree branches, a tube feeder consists of a long cylinder that can be filled with birdseed.
Tube feeders are typically made of heavy-duty transparent plastic so birders can view the seed level and know when it’s time for a refill. Small openings and perches along the feeder give birds easy access to the seed, while also keeping squirrels out and birdseed dry. The bases and lids usually come in either plastic or metal and remove easily for filling and cleaning.
Best For: Small birds like chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, nuthatches, sparrows, and titmice
Our Recommendation: Gray Bunny Classic Meal Tube Bird Feeder on Amazon for $26.97
This feeder has a simple, durable design that helps it blend easily into a home’s surroundings.
2. Hopper Feeder
A hopper feeder (also called a house bird feeder) has a tapered container that can hold a large amount of birdseed. The seed empties into a tray so birds can access it easily. As birds eat the seed from the tray, more seed falls down from the hopper. These feeders are often designed to look like tiny houses—pitched roofs and all—for extra style and shelter.
Best when hung from tree branches or mounted on poles, hopper feeders come in a variety of sizes, materials, and can attract more variety of bird species than other feeder types. Hopper feeders can be more difficult to clean than other types of feeders, but some have detachable roofs to make cleaning easier.
Best For: Many types of birds—more than half of bird species visit hopper feeders
Our Recommendation: Perky-Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone II Home Style Wild Bird Feeder on Amazon for $31.40
Equipped with weight-activated perches, this feeder features a charming gabled roof, chimney, and front porch perch.
3. Nectar Feeder
Hummingbirds love sweet nectar, so choose outdoor bird feeders that hold nectar to attract them. Bottle feeders (or inverted feeders) and tray feeders (or dish feeders) are made specially to provide nectar. The best materials are glass or plastic with bright yellow, orange, and red colors.
Purchase nectar or use DIY recipes that consist of one part sugar to four parts water. Do not add red dye to nectar, which can be harmful to birds. Nectar feeders should be emptied, washed, and refilled at least twice a week, but daily cleanings are recommended.
Best For: Hummingbirds and orioles
Our Recommendation: Perky-Pet Glass Hummingbird Feeder with Built-In Ant Moat and Bee Guards on Amazon for $19.03
This bottle-style nectar feeder with bright red and yellow coloring holds 30 ounces of nectar and features removable, easy-to-clean parts.
4. Thistle Feeder
Wire bird feeders like thistle feeders provide thistle (or nyjer seed) to many bird species, including goldfinches, purple finches, juncos, quail, mourning doves, and sparrows. They are made of metal wire mesh, a plastic tube, and tiny feeding portals where the birds access the seed, or as cloth mesh “socks.” Small birds can cling to the mesh fabric easily and grab the seed through its tiny openings, or they sit on perches of solid thistle feeders to eat from the portals. It is best to place these feeders on or near a shrub or tree so birds feel safe and can discover it easily.
Best For: Goldfinches, juncos, mourning doves, purple finches, quail, and sparrows
Our Recommendation: Kingsyard Metal Finch Bird Feeder on Amazon for $22.99
With its yellow top and tray, this high-capacity metal feeder provides options for thistle-lovers to feed from multiple positions.
5. Suet Feeder
Suet feeders feature a cage or basket made from wire or plastic mesh. Suet cakes consist of densely packed animal fat that can be safely fed to birds, especially in cold weather. Species who find suet appealing include woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, wrens, starlings, cardinals, and more. A suet cake sits inside of a metal bird feeder, and birds can reach it through openings in the mesh.
Suet is typically made of a mixture of animal fat or peanuts and other ingredients, including cornmeal, birdseed, and fruit. Some birds should only eat suet in cold weather for extra energy, while others can eat it year round. Suet feeders work best when placed near tree trunks or thick tree branches.
Best For: Cardinals, chickadees, jays, nuthatches, starlings, woodpeckers, and wrens
Our Recommendation: Birds Choice Recycled Single Cake Suet Feeder on Amazon for $24.99
Made from durable recycled poly-lumber, this feeder holds one suet cake and attracts a wide variety of birds.
6. Ground Feeder
Ground bird feeders can attract species who prefer to forage for food on the ground. These include doves, pigeons, bluebirds, cardinals, sparrows, starlings, buntings, towhees, grouse, quail, and juncos. A variety of food items—sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, millet, cracked cord, peanuts, and dried fruit—can sit in separate trays as backyard bird feeders.
The trays can be made of wood, metal, perforated metal, or screen. The best location for these feeders is under the roof of a covered patio or gazebo to protect the seed from rain or snow. It is also helpful to place them under trees or shrubs to provide protective cover. Clean the tray regularly and rake or sweep the area to remove spilled seed and shells.
Best For: Doves, pigeons, bluebirds, cardinals, sparrows, starlings, buntings, towhees, grouse, quail, and juncos
Our Recommendation: Gray Bunny Compact Ground Feeder Tray on Amazon for $10.95
This simple ground feeder has raised edges to prevent spillage, heavy-duty steel mesh, and a rust-resistant black powder coating.
7. Peanut Feeder
When it comes to cool bird feeders that catch the eye, peanut feeders are some of the most visually intriguing. A peanut feeder is often wreath-shaped and filled with peanuts, either with or without shells. These feeders feature holes just large enough to keep the peanuts in while still allowing birds to work them out for protein-packed enjoyment.
Peanut feeders are easy to mount by hook, but keep them up high and out from squirrels’ and other animals’ reach. To keep these feeders clean, avoid salted peanuts and wash out the feeders when it gets damp or rainy to prevent mold and soggy peanuts.
Best For: Cardinals, chickadees, house finches, jays, magpies, nuthatches, sparrows, and woodpeckers
Our Recommendation: Gtongoko Hanging Peanut Wreath Bird Feeder on Amazon for $18.99
This sturdy peanut wreath bird feeder is made of high-quality steel and sure to add some interest to any backyard when filled with peanuts.
8. Oriole Feeder
For most bird feeder types, color is more of a personal preference than a necessity. However, orioles are attracted to bright orange, so choose an oriole feeder that prominently displays this color. Oriole feeders are designed with a perch and one or more feeding stations to hold jelly, cut oranges, nectar, or mealworms—the species’ favorite foods.
These feeders come in a variety of durable materials. Each has its advantages: plastic is inexpensive; glass is easy to sterilize and reuse; and cedar and redwood tend to be weather-resistant. Many oriole feeders also include metal dish-holders or spikes to hold orange halves in place. Oriole feeders require frequent washing to remove sticky residue to avoid attracting bugs. Fortunately, most have removable dishes that lift out for cleaning.
Best For: Orioles
Our Recommendation: Songbird Essentials Ultimate Oriole Feeder from Amazon for $24.95
This bright-orange feeder is sure to attract many orioles at once, sporting multiple bowls for jelly, ports for nectar, and spikes for fresh-cut oranges.
9. Tray Hummingbird Feeder
Dish-style hummingbird feeders—also called tray or saucer feeders—hold nectar in a shallow bowl-shaped reservoir. Hummingbirds feed through holes in the cover called ports. These feeders are usually made of plastic or glass and designed so birders can watch the hummingbirds as they feed. Most have an ant moat to keep out these sugar-loving insects.
It’s recommended to hang more than one tray feeder and space them at least 10 feet apart to attract more hummingbirds. They are easy to fill and clean, although they need frequent cleaning and refilling to avoid issues like bacteria growth. Tray feeders tend to be red, orange, or yellow since hummingbirds are attracted to those particular colors.
Best For: Hummingbirds
Our Recommendation: Sherwoodbase Cuboid Hummingbird Feeder on Amazon for $13.99
This durable polycarbonate plastic feeder can be suction-cupped to a window or hung from a chain anywhere in the garden.
10. Window Feeder
Bird lovers who lack the space for a porch or garden bird feeder can still observe friendly visitors up-close by installing a window feeder. This type of feeder gives a unique view of all types of smaller birds by adhering to a window using a bracket or suction cups.
Window feeders are often made of acrylic and include tiny perches to attract small birds, while deterring larger birds from bullying their petite counterparts. To prevent the birds from crashing into the window and getting hurt, place feeders within 3 feet of windows.
Best For: Small birds in general, including bluebirds, cardinals, and hummingbirds
Our Recommendation: Nature’s Hangout Clear Window Bird Feeder on Amazon for $27.95
This acrylic window bird feeder has suction cups for attaching to windows, drain holes to prevent water buildup, and a removable tray for cleaning.
11. Mealworm Feeder
Bluebirds, chickadees, thrushes, titmice, wrens, nuthatches, kinglets, and orioles like to dine on either dehydrated or live mealworms as a source of protein. Pet stores, some large chain stores, and online specialty retailers sell live mealworms, which last in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Dried mealworms last longer, require no maintenance, and cost less, but they’re less nutritious.
Try rotating between live and dehydrated mealworms to entice birds. Place mealworms on a platform feeder or in a rimmed dish. Locate the feeders near vegetation and away from windows.
Best For: Bluebirds, chickadees, kinglets, orioles, thrushes, titmice, and wrens
Our Recommendation: Nature’s Way Cedar Platform Tray Bird Feeder from Amazon for $21.99
This feeder features a simple open design, is constructed from natural weather-resistant cedar, and has a mesh seed tray that lifts out for easy cleaning.
12. Squirrel-Proof Feeder
To deter pesky squirrels from stealing food from birds, try a squirrel-proof bird feeder. These bird feeders are designed specifically to keep squirrels out by using baffles, cages, tension springs, collapsible perches, or rolling mechanisms to close the feeding ports when a squirrel sits on the perch. Squirrel-proof bird feeders come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to attract all types of birds. The feeders hold suet, sunflower seeds, or other types of food for certain birds, while some allow for a seed mix to attract a range of birds.
The material a squirrel-proof feeder is made of is very important. Squirrels have tough front teeth and can easily gnaw at wood or weak plastic, so look for strong metal, plastic, acrylic, or epoxy resin. Finally, tube feeders, suet feeders, and hopper feeders can be squirrel-proof, but platform-feeders and window feeders typically are not.
Best For: Most types of birds, but not necessarily all situations
Our Recommendation: Brome Squirrel Buster Standard Squirrel-proof Feeder on Amazon for $50.18
This squirrel-proof bird feeder’s design deters squirrels while keeping bird seed easily accessible to birds.
The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on October 26, 2022.