Birdwatchers Reveal The Bird Feeders They Use At Home

Birdwatchers Reveal The Bird Feeders They Use At Home

On a relaxed morning, you may love nothing more than sipping your coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of local birds. To help you make your home more welcoming to these small, winged friends, we spoke to a variety of expert and hobby birders.

According to Chris Wells, president of the Valley Forge Audubon Society in Eagleville, Pennsylvania, the ideal bird feeder is quick to assemble, sturdy enough to endure bad weather and squirrels, and tight enough to keep your feed dry. But Wells notes that the most important aspect of a feeder is making sure it’s easy to clean. Matt Igleski, executive director of the Chicago Bird Alliance, echoes this sentiment: “A good scrubbing at least once a week with soap and water is recommended.”

If you’re interested in attracting a variety of birds, Wells and Igleski both suggest trying a variety of feeders. You may also want to give your birds a place to drink and rinse, according to Ben Nickley, executive director of the Berkshire Bird Observatory in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

“A bird bath is also a great way to bring birds in — including some insectivorous birds that don’t typically come down from the canopy,” Nickley told HuffPost.

Wells, Igleski, Nickley and Elise Greenberg, organizer of Philly Queer Birders in Philadelphia, also suggest bringing native plants, shrubs and flowers into your outdoor space. Some of these plants may produce berries or seeds that birds can eat, while others invite native bugs, insects and other pollinators. These native plants will also bring what Nickley calls “structural diversity” to your yard, giving birds places to live, perch and just hang out.

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Black oil sunflower seeds

Of course, to really bring birds to your feeder, you need seeds.

“The centerpiece of any feeding station is a standard platform that is full of black oil sunflower seeds,” Nicklet says. “These attract most backyard birds that are known to visit feeders. Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, finches, even blue jays and some woodpeckers will all go for black oil sunflower seed. So will irruptive winter species like evening grosbeaks and red-breasted nuthatches.”

While Nickley didn’t recommend a specific brand of seed, we like this highly rated five-pound bag from Kaytee that can go in many different types of feeders.


Add in some millet

According to Nickley, “you can also add some millet to the mix to bring in sparrows, like juncos, which normally forage on the ground.”

Again, Nickley didn’t specify a brand, but we found this affordable and still well-rated set that comes in a 3.5-ounce vacuumed seal bag.


A basic platform feeder

Chris Wells, president of the Valley Forge Audubon Society, Matt Igleski, executive director of the Chicago Bird Alliance, Ben Nickley, executive director of the Berkshire Bird Observatory, and Elise Greenberg, organizer of Philly Queer Birders, all say a basic platform feeder is a great universal option.

“I find just a simple platform feeder works for me,” Igleski said. “It’s easy to clean and I can put just about any kind of seed in it.” Wells notes that flat trays gives birds the best visibility for predators such as cats, and they attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds. Nickley notes that platform feeders “do not have a size filter — small birds like chickadees can use them, but so can larger birds like cardinals.”

While none of the experts suggested a specific feeder, we like this fuss-free wooden option with a small hook, available in various colors.


Or something squirrel-resistant

Greenberg, Nickley and Wells also suggest opting for something that’s squirrel-resistant, especially if you find a lot of squirrels in your area. Something like this house-style feeder has a weight-sensitive perch that closes under squirrels, and can be either hung or pole-mounted.


A suet feeder

Another option is a suet feeder, where birds peck at a solid block of food.

“Suet feeders are great at attracting birds from the bark-foraging guild — woodpeckers and nuthatches love them!” Nickley said. “They are cheap, [and] can be hung on trees or under house eaves. They also occasionally get birds that don’t normally show up at feeding stations, like Carolina wrens and overwintering warblers.”

The version listed here offers a weather-protective roof and two slots for food, but you can find suet feeders for as little as $2.

Nickley notes that most store-bought suet is made from animal fat, so if you want something plant-based, you can make your own — he even has a helpful video how.


A thistle feeder

Technically, a thistle feeder is a specific type of tube feeder, with a smaller opening for thistle or nyjer seed. Nickley says a thistle feeder “specifically attract[s] finches who will eat small seeds,” and that “you can get dozens of goldfinch and housefinch on a single thistle feeder at once in the winter.”

With squirrel protection in mind, we found this squirrel-proof thistle feeder that offers multiple perches for small birds.


Make your windows bird-safe

If you’re going to be welcoming more birds to your space, Greenberg and Wells urge you to put some sort of decals or stickers on your windows and glass doors, or take other steps to make your glass surfaces bird-safe. “Nearly one billion birds are estimated to die each year after hitting windows in the United States alone,” Wells says.

This set of UV-reflective window decals are made for birds’ safety and come in a variety of shapes.


Get a birdbath

Per Wells and Nickley, adding a birdbath can greatly increase the number of birds you’ll see in your yard, as birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing. Wells says pedestal baths, like the one pictured, are the most common type, and that something ceramic can be easier to clean.

“Just make sure you change your water regularly and that the depth of the water is 1-2 inches deep,” Nickley said.


Or opt for a copper one

Greenberg adds that “copper birdbaths are a good choice as they have natural, antimicrobial properties.” This option can attach to your home or another structure, so it can be a great bath if you don’t have yard or garden space.

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