When the weather is warm, my screened-in porch becomes the primary office space at my house. It’s one of the perks from working from home, but there are distractions. My favorite is the flapping of wings as birds of all sizes come to visit. It is a distraction I encourage. Turns out if you feed birds, they’ll come back. If you have the right feeder, they’ll come back a lot.
What type of feeder is right for you? The trick is knowing what you hope to attract and, almost as importantly, what to discourage.
Short of scattering bird seed on the ground, the platform feeder is the simplest way to feed a wide variety of birds. Platform feeders can be hung with wires, perched on a pole or left to rest on any raised surface. Although some platform feeders may have a mesh floor for drainage, exposure to the elements can cause seeds to sprout quickly. Daily refills are recommended, especially since this feeder type is likely to feed not just the bird population, but is also a favorite of squirrels always on the lookout for a free lunch. Not usually the best choice, but an easy way to get started.
Hopper style feeders are the most popular type of backyard feeder and will attract a broad range of birds. A covered enclosure protects seed from the elements and can be filled with enough seed to last days or longer without refilling as gravity keeps feeding trays full. A great choice for attracting many types of birds, including larger birds like cardinals or blue jays. Usually hung or pole-mounted, this popular feeder is available in many styles and sizes. Consider a squirrel baffle or other squirrel-deterrent designs to make sure they don’t become your best customers.
Like the hopper, tube feeders can be filled with different types of seed that will remain protected from the weather without frequent refills. Small perches and openings limit the types of birds that will be able to feed, but for backyard bird watching favorites like finches, orioles, bluebirds, chickadees and titmice, the tube feeder is an easy to maintain choice.
A metal mesh housing dispenses thistle for finches or other small birds to peck through the screen. A larger weave can hold sunflower seeds to attract cardinals, chickadees or nuthatches. Although fewer birds are able to use this style of feeder, those that do are among the prettiest. This simple feeder requires little maintenance and is a great option for the casual birdwatcher.
Usually a basic cage to hold a block of seed held together by suet or lard, a suet feeder may be hung or simply nailed to a tree trunk. Suet is a favorite with woodpeckers, but the energy-packed suet cake will draw birds of many types. Although the feeders themselves aren’t usually all that pretty, they are a great choice for keeping birds fat and happy, especially in winter when food is tough to find.
With dispensers often designed to look like the petals of colorful flowers, hummingbird feeders dispense nectar to satisfy the high metabolism of the backyard favorite. Hummingbirds consume nearly half their weight in nectar every day and will return often if a feeder is well-maintained. Hummingbirds are fun to watch, but these feeders must be cleaned and refilled two or three times a week to prevent the development of mold.