The 10 Best Bird Feeders
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in June of 2015. We've ranked the best bird feeders on the market based on fill capacity, what they cost, and how good they'll look hanging outside your home. We've also included options for attracting some rarer species, like the ever-elusive hummingbird, so you (and your cats) should never lack for entertainment in your garden. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best bird feeder on Amazon.
Choosing The Perfect Bird Feeder
Deciding where you want to place a bird feeder will also have a direct impact on your choice of which feeder best serves yours needs.
And of course not all hanging feeders will work for all hanging locations.
Bird feeders are an affordable and easy way to bring both beauty and excitement to your yard. Within a few days of installation, feathered friends will flock to your yard to feed upon the food you have provided. With a bit of research and the modest dedication required to keep your feeder regularly filled with seed, a bird feeder transforms your property into a veritable oasis for wild birds -- you can attract even more avian animals with the addition of a bird bath.
Choosing the right bird feeder has a direct impact on the type and the volume of birds you will attract, so take a few minutes to consider which option is right for you in terms of aesthetic preference, local bird species, the climate and weather patterns of your area, and the likely physical placement of your prospective new feeder.
First and foremost, you have to decide whether your bird feeder is intended to serve primarily as a mechanism for feeding wild animals, or if its primary purpose is for decorating your yard. There is no wrong or right approach: even bird feeders that are largely ornamental will still offer birds food they will greet enthusiastically and which can help them survive the late autumn and winter months when food sources grow scarce. And larger capacity, multiple port options will still offer extra beauty to your yard in the form of all the birds attracted to the property, if not through the actual aesthetics of design.
Deciding where you want to place a bird feeder will also have a direct impact on your choice of which feeder best serves yours needs. If you want to hang one -- whether from a tree branch, from a shepherd's hook, or from under a patio or gazebo -- that of course eliminates many types of feeders designed to mount flush with a window or to rest on a flat surface. And of course not all hanging feeders will work for all hanging locations.
While most hanging varieties use a single cord, for example, some are supported by twin wires and thus must be hung from larger overhead areas. And if you intend to hang a bird feeder anywhere near your windows, you have to be sure the feeder is not so large and bulky that it might crack the windows if blown hard enough by gusts of wind.
If you do want to mount a feeder that sits flush against a window, make sure that you are not mounting it in easy reach of squirrels, rats, or other critters not intended to eat that bird food. Small mammals are notorious for finding ways to eat bird seed, and their presence can mean more than merely scared off birds, it can also mean damage to your home and a property soiled by animal waste. It's better to not even hang a bird feeder at all than to hang one in the wrong place and end up needing pest repellents later down the line.
Choosing The Right Bird Seed
The types of birds that will be attracted to your bird feeder has much more to do with the seed you put inside it than the unit itself. But not all bird feeders can handle all sorts of bird seed. Or rather all sorts of bird feeds, to be more specific, as not all bird feed uses seeds: some blends use corn, peanuts, and more.
But not all bird feeders can handle all sorts of bird seed.
If you only want to attract finches, for example (and indeed the bright and beautiful gold finch is a favorite species of many bird lovers), then a thistle seed is the perfect bird feed. These diminutive seeds can be placed in purpose built bird feeders with smaller feeding ports that larger birds' beaks can't access. Putting thistle seed in a general purpose feeder won't work, though, as the small seeds tend to flow out of the feeder's openings.
If you want to attract the greatest variety of birds possible and you are not especially concerned with dissuading certain species and favoring others, basic black sunflower seeds are the affordable and reliable way to go. Rich in oil, these seeds help give birds plenty of energy to burn, and their flavor is almost universally appreciated. The thin shells of the sunflower seed are also easy for most birds to crack.
For larger birds like jays and pheasants, consider a feed made not using seeds at all, but rather from dried corn kernels, from shelled peanuts, or from a blend of the two.
And of course you can always invest in blended bird seed mixes that have everything from sunflower seeds to peanuts to millet and more. These blends can keep a variety of birds fed and healthy.
A Few Words On American Birds
There are more than 900 different species of wild bird living in America and Canada alone. Looking at a few of the subspecies of birds in a bit of detail can help give you an appreciation for the vast range of differences among the many birds plying the skies, forests, and waters of North America. While you are unlikely to see many Wedge Rumped Storm Petrels (or the oceandroma tethys to be precise in taxonomy) visiting your backyard bird feeder, you are more than likely to see finches dining there.
And as finches are non migratory, if you can find the right feed to attract them to your property, you can enjoy the presence of these feathered friends all year round.
But which type of finch? There are now fewer than seventeen varieties of finch living in North America. These birds share many traits, such as a small size, a pointed, usually triangular beak shape (though a few finishes have hooked beaks), and often brightly colored wings. And as finches are non migratory, if you can find the right feed to attract them to your property, you can enjoy the presence of these feathered friends all year round.
If you're interested in attracting swallows, there are only eight different subspecies of American bird about which to learn. (There are more than 80 swallow species around the globe, though.) Swallows gobble up lots of insects and thus can help reduce the bug population in your yard. Attracting them with bird feed will help keep them in the area, a bonus as they look lovely and as they balance their feed diet with mosquitoes and flies you would rather not have bugging you.
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