How to Choose the Right Bird Feeder

Three Parts:Choosing a Feeder TypePurchasing a feederTypes of Food

Are you wondering what type of bird feeder to use for which type of food (black oil sunflower seeds, oranges, peanuts)? Well, here is a guide of which feeder feeds and holds which food best.

Part 1
Choosing a Feeder Type

Constructed feeders

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    Use a tube feeder for mixed type of food that can include: black oil sunflower seeds, milo (sorghum) seed, and millet. Some tube feeders can also hold nyjer (thistle) seed.
    • Different shaped feeders such as houses and balls (or hot air-balloons) are also great for mixed seed.
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    Consider window mount feeders for mixed seed and/or black oil sunflower seeds.
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    Choose mesh socks and small wire tube feeders for Nyjer (thistle) seed. The mesh socks only work for goldfinches (and other small birds). The small wire thistle feeder is sturdier and can hold bigger birds.
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    Look for unshelled peanut tube feeders which have large holes and are only meant for unshelled peanuts.
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    Get a wire shelled peanut and black oil sunflower feeders for shelled peanuts.
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    Use tray/platform feeders. These are great because they can dispense just about any type of feed.
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    Get a hummingbird/nectar feeder specifically for attracting hummingbirds and orioles.
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    Use suet cage feeders for attracting woodpeckers. You'll also find many other birds enjoy suet too.

Natural feeders

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    Use orange halve feeders for attracting orioles and other birds who eat sweet liquids. All you have to do is put a few short dowels into a board and stick the oranges onto the dowels.
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    Hang suet balls or pine cones filled with suet from a branch, pole, etc. Simple suet feeders can be made at home. Be sure to choose a place that squirrels cannot get to though.

Part 2
Purchasing a feeder

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    Look at a bird guide (or check the list below) to find which birds are in your area. Look at what they eat. Decide if you want to attract a certain type or types and match the feeder to the type of food it can hold and the relevant birds. Also buy the seed that they will eat to attract the birds to your yard.
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    Look online for stores that sell quality feeders. Ones that come with squirrel deterrents are a good choice if there are squirrels in your area. Any feeder used long-term should have a heavy base, to prevent swaying in the wind which would make it difficult for birds to eat.
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    Find a store that sells your chosen feeder, then take a field trip. At the store, examine it yourself. The holes for birds to eat seeds out of should not be too big so that seed can fall out, or too small so that birds can remove the seeds from the feeder. Make sure you have a way to hang it before you buy it.
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    Hang the feeder in a place where it can be seen from a window. Be sure to bird-proof the window from birds so that they do not fly into it. A lightweight trellis works well, as do stickers. If a bird is startled when feeding, it may fly in any direction that looks like an escape route. Birds do not see windows, but the reflection in them. This reflection will look exactly like your yard, thus you must always bird-proof your windows.

Part 3
Types of Food

Matching food to bird types

  • Shelled peanuts attract: Brown Thrashers, Chickadees, Bushtits, Nuthatches, Starlings, Kinglets, Titmice, Jays, Warblers, & Woodpeckers.
  • Millet attracts: Towhees, Red-winged Blackbirds, Doves, Juncos, Cowbirds, Quail, & Sparrows.
  • Nyjer (thistle) attracts: American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches,& Common Redpolls.
  • Black oil sunflower seeds attracts: Red-bellied woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Jays, Grosbeaks, Grackles, Northern Cardinals, Chickadees, Finches & Titmice.
  • Cracked corn attracts: Towhees,Crows, Doves, Sparrows, Quail, Pheasants, Juncos, & Jays.
  • Orange halves attract: Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers, Orioles, Tanagers, Gray Catbirds & Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Hummingbird food recipe

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    Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water mixture. (For example: 1cup white sugar + 4 cups water.)
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    Boil the water. Measure after.
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    Add the sugar while hot and stir until all the granules are dissolved.
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    Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before filling clean feeders.
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    Refrigerate any leftover solution.


  • If birds do not come, they may see your pet cat prowling around the yard. Keep the putty-tat away from your feeders.
  • Birds are attracted to the sound of running water. If you have a water attraction near your feeders, birds are sure to come for a bath and breakfast party. Install a small birdbath with a fountain, if possible. If that sounds too high-tech, try placing a dish of water on the ground or on a stand, and hang a tin can full of water above it. Poke a hole in the tin can (as small as possible) and watch the water drip into your birdbath. keep the can full for several days, and soon birds will come to drink and bathe. Once they know where the bath is, you can remove the can.


  • Birds are eaten by cats. Solution: remove cats from the area.
  • Birds fly into windows. Solution: bird-proof windows.
  • Squirrels love to eat bird feed but with special squirrel-proof feeders the chances of squirrels invading your feeders are much lower.
  • Birds are prone to disease. Clean all bird feeders and baths regularly.

Things You'll Need

  • Feeder
  • Attachment gear for feeder

Article Info

Categories: Feeding Birds