One of the simplest joys of having a garden is looking out and seeing a host of feeding wild birds, fluttering and squabbling amongst themselves.
Bird feeders are a simple and easy way to encourage a whole variety of bird species into your garden. By following our guide, you’ll be able to decide which feeders are right for you.
How to choose a bird feeder
All species of birds are different, with different preferences when it comes to feeding habits, how, when and on what type of food they want to feed on.
After all, there’s a huge difference between a larger ground feeding bird, and a tiny foraging breed.
By setting up your garden correctly, you’ll be able to encourage a huge variety of different species into your garden. If possible, having a selection of feeders is better, because different breeds of bird will prefer various options.
When is the best time to feed the birds in my garden?
Birds need your help feeding the most when the world outside is harsh and food is scarce. The most obvious example is winter, but harsh autumns or particularly hot and dry summers can also count.
During spring and summer, birds don’t normally need as much help with feeding. In fact, putting out too much bird food during the summer months can slow the development of the birds that feed in your garden, because young birds should be learning to forage and feed naturally during these months.
How to choose the right type of bird feeder
Did you know that certain birds won’t feed out of certain styles of bird feeder, no matter how appetising it looks or how hungry they might be?
This is why choosing the right type of bird feeder is more important than you might think. If you want to attract certain birds to your garden.
First, it’s important to understand the types of bird feeders available to you.
Bird feeders are generally divided into two different types. Hanging and Standing.
Hanging bird feeders are, as the name suggests, hung from something, generally a tree, a fence panel or a free standing fixture.
Standing feeders either have a built in stand, or are built to sit directly onto the floor.
Each has their own positives and negatives, which we’ve gone into detail about below:
Hanging Bird Seed Feeders
One of the most common types of bird feeders, and probably what comes to most people’s minds when a bird feeder is mentioned. Bird seed feeders are easy to set up, because they can be hung almost anywhere, and they are easy to use, as once they are filled with feed your job is done.
Simple in design, vertical bird feeders work using gravity to keep a steady stream of feed working through to the feeding stations at the bottom. As birds eat the feed, the weight of the remaining feed keeps it flowing steadily, even if it’s been in the feeder for several days.
Another advantage of feeders like this is how modular they are. Because the design is simple, it can be scaled up, letting you buy feeders that have anywhere from two to eight bird stations.
What feed can I use with a Hanging Bird Feeder?
Feeders of this type are perfect for sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts, as well as various seed mixes.
What birds will feed from a Hanging Bird Seed Feeder?
Most garden birds are happy to feed from feeders like these, including:
- Blue, Great and Coal Tits
Our top pick for a hanging bird feeder
Simple and effective, the iBorn bird feeder is perfect for almost every garden.
At 8 inches, it’s tall enough to hold a good amount of feed, and the basic but hard wearing construction will last a long time, even without much maintenance.
As a hanging feeder, it can be used for almost every type of feed, and can be set up in countless places in and around your garden, making this the perfect choice for someone just starting feeding in their garden, but just as good for someone adding another feeder to their collection.
Peanut feeders look similar to other vertical feeders, except the outside walls are made of mesh.
Because of this, they are only suitable for peanuts, as most other types of seed or feed will spill out from it.
It should also be considered if you particularly favour peanuts as a feed, since peanuts should never be given to birds outside of specific feeders like these. Peanuts are a large nut, and hard for smaller birds to eat without first breaking them down by pecking at them. The smallest bird species even risk choking on full sized peanuts.
What feed can I use with peanut feeders?
Peanut feeders are only suitable for one type of feed. Peanuts.
What birds will feed from a Peanut Feeder?
Most of the usual garden birds will be happy to feed from feeders like these, as well as some rarer species, including:
- Blue, Great and Coal Tits
- Greater Spotted Woodpeckers
Our top pick for a peanut bird feeder
Simple and effective, this tough bird feeder, also by iBorn, will last a lifetime if it’s looked after correctly.
Effortlessly easy to use, you only have to remove the top and fill with peanuts, then hang from a good point and watch the birds flock to it.
A quick brush down with a rough cloth or stiff brush, and a squirt with disinfectant cleaning solution, is all the maintenance this feeder needs, so it’s perfect if you want a peanut feeder that requires almost zero maintenance.
Soft and Live Food Feeders
Feeders like these all tend to follow the same formula, a feeding tray covered over by an umbrella style roof. This is because the feed that’s typically used in feeders like this is far more susceptible to the elements.
Wind will blow it all away, and rain will soften everything up and cause it all to mix together into a sludgelike mess.
What feed can I use with Soft or Live feeders?
As the name suggests, soft and live feeders are designed for feeds like:
- Mealworm crumble
- Golden Chorus
- Prosecto Insectivorous
- Dried mealworm
But feeders like this are also suitable for almost any standard seed mix or single seed feeds.
What birds will feed from a Soft of Live Feeder?
Most birds will be comfortable feeding from a live feeder, as long as they eat the feed that you’ve decided to use.
Our top pick for a soft bird feeder
A simple, classic design, this I Love Robins feeder does exactly what you need it to do, providing a pretty focal point for any garden.
Made from tough, clear polycarbonate, you can see through it at any distance, so you always know if there’s feed left available.
It’s also variable. The top umbrella slides up and down, allowing you to control exactly which birds can access the delicious feed inside. This cover serves double duty, keeping the feed protected from the elements, and able to be closed at the end of the day.
Inexpensive and able to be hung anywhere, this is a great addition for anyone serious about looking after their local wildlife.
Bird tables can be designed in an almost infinite amount of styles to fit any garden, and sized for the smallest to the largest birds.
Because of this, bird tables are suitable for most gardens, and can be used in concert with vertical feeders to be able to feed every single type of bird.
What feed can I use with a Bird Table?
Because bird tables are so simple, you can use almost any kind of feed with them.
The only considerations are that you shouldn’t use peanuts or other large nuts on a bird table, as they can harm smaller birds, and that you should only use live or soft feed varieties if your bird table has a roof.
What birds will feed from a Bird Table?
Almost any birds will feed from a bird table. However, there are certain types of bird that will only feed from a bird table, including:
- Song Thrush
Our top pick for a bird table
Built in the UK from sustainably sourced wood, (two trees planted for every one used) this bird table by The Hutch Company helps the environment even before it arrives in your garden.
In terms of design, it includes everything you would want from a bird table. The main feeding area is large, with two cut in water gullies, helping with runoff and cleanliness.
Underneath are two separate, smaller feeding trays, which gives more feeding area and can help prevent infighting.
The general build is also excellent, made from solid wood that’s already treated with an anti-bacterial coating, helping to keep disease and rot at bay. It’s taller than most other tables, too, at almost two meters. This is great both for the safety of your birds, and gives you a great view of everything happening on your table.
Overall, there’s a lot to love, and almost no downsides. It’s slightly more expensive than some other bird tables, but this type of quality is always worth paying for.
High in carbs and fat, suet is a fantastic food source for most birds, especially in the winter months. Suet balls can be used anywhere in the garden, but vertical suet feeders are a great choice if you want a safe and comfortable alternative for smaller birds.
What feed can I use with Suet Feeder?
As the name suggests, suet feeders are adapted to be used with suet balls, and usually no other types of feed.
What birds will feed from a Suet Feeder?
Any bird that feeds from a normal vertical feeder will feed from a suet feeder, including:
- Blue, Great and Coal Tits
Our top pick for a suet bird feeder
Out of every suet feeder we examined, this model by Roamwild Pestoff is by far the best.
It combines all the features you’d expect from a good feeder, with a bunch of extras that make this a fantastic option in any garden.
First off, it’s almost completely pest proof. Suet balls are an attractive treat for rats, squirrels and other pests. But this feeder is weight activated, meaning that animals can only feed from it when they’re sitting on a perch, stopping squirrels from filching all your feed.
Second, it’s made of tough materials and has a built in rain guard, protecting your feed and stopping it from going mouldy.
Third, it’s multi use, and can happily take other feed, not just suet balls or cakes.
Lastly, it’s UK designed, and with Roamwild Pestoff’s warranty, if anything goes wrong, you’re covered.
Out of every bird feeder on our list, this is our top choice. If you don’t mind splashing out a little extra cash, it’s more than worth considering this feeder before any other options.
Ground feeders are precisely what you would expect them to be; a feeder that sits on the ground, raised up just enough to keep the feed isolated and contained.
Most ground feeders follow the same formula; which is a frame containing a thin mesh that the feed sits on. This allows the feeding area to drain, and keeps your feed as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
Simple but effective, ground feeders are perfect for reducing waste and keeping your birds fed and safe. If you regularly scatter feed on your patio or into your garden, consider investing in a ground feeder.
What feed can I use with Ground Feeder?
Ground feeders are suitable for any type of bird feed, whether seed mixes, suet balls and cakes, or live mixes.
What birds will feed from a Ground Feeder?
Almost all birds are comfortable feeding from a ground feeder, as it mirrors the natural feeding habits birds will use.
Our top pick for a ground bird feeder
This ground feeder by Ruddings is simplicity itself. A standard wooden frame with strong wire meshing to hold the feed, it’s as basic as can be. But basic doesn’t have to mean boring, or bad.
Light and large, there’s a lot of space for even the largest birds. It’s solidly made, suitable for all types of feed (though be careful with fat balls and the rain,) and if you’re worried about rats or other ground animals getting into it, you can buy an accompanying mesh topper that keeps pests away for super cheap.
Simple and easy, ground feeders like this are the perfect accompaniment to any other feeder on this list, and are sure to attract a wide variety of birds to your garden.
Do I need a squirrel proof bird feeder?
If you have a lot of squirrels in your local area, it’s worth investing in squirrel proof bird feeders.
Squirrels are enterprising little creatures, and given a nice, safe and reliable source of food, like a bird feeder, will run riot and eat everything they can.
How squirrel proof bird feeders work is simple. Generally, a squirrel will climb down the chain holding your bird feeder to a tree or other fitting, then steal as much feed as it can. Squirrel proof feeders have an umbrella or hood on the top, making it almost impossible for a squirrel to get to the feed from the top.
More advanced models might also have secondary measures, such as weight activated feed blockers or a hopper feed dispenser that drops food down when birds land on perches.
What is a deluxe bird feeding station?
The best option if you’re looking to buy multiple feeders, a deluxe wild bird feeding station is a stand designed around providing a safe area and huge amount of feed variety for birds in your garden.
A feeding station, for example like this Tom Chambers brand has space for four large hanging feeders, as well as two bowls for live feed, seeds or water.
The height of the stand makes it safe from predators and pests, the contemporary steel construction is attractive and will fit into almost any garden, and it’s almost infinitely adaptable. If you buy a new feeder, simply unhook one of your existing feeders and slot the new one into place.
Hard wearing and simple to set up, if you want the best option for feeding all species of birds in your garden, a feeding station might just be the best choice for you.
Where is the best place to put my bird feeding station?
Once you’ve decided on what sort of garden bird feeder you want to buy, you have to find a place to put it. When the time comes and you’re deciding where to put your garden bird feeding station, here’s what you should consider:
- Noise: Place your bird feeders in the quietest place possible whilst still being visible to you. Birds are easily spooked, especially by human influence, so try and keep your feeders away from places where people regularly pass.
- Shelter: If possible, keep the your bird feeders in areas where they’re at least partially covered from the elements. That means sheltered from intense direct sunlight, strong winds and rain.
- Safety: Badly placed bird feeders are a prime spot for animals like cats to attack birds, so make sure that your feeders are far enough away from any areas that predators could hide, for example high fences or bushes.
- Visible: Birds will feel mush safer if they can see the area around the feeder, so try not to block visibility both on the feeder itself, and in areas where the birds can watch the feeder from, so they can make sure its safe before they move down to feed.
What material should my bird feeder be made from?
You’ll find that most hanging bird feeders are predominantly plastic, and most standing feeders or tables are made of wood.
Plastic feeders should have metal reinforcement and perches, which makes them much stronger and helps to keep away squirrels.
All wooden bird feeders should be treated to be weather resistant, otherwise they will be susceptible to rot and could also harbor disease.
What types of food can be used in your bird feeder?
- White Millet: Which is great for small beaked birds, and very high in protein
- Peanuts: Peanuts are an excellent source of fats and protein, but have to be served in a special feeder, as they’re too big for a lot of birds to eat safely whole.
- Suet cakes and balls: Suet is another great source of fat and protein, and can be used to feed most species in a huge variety of ways.
- Cracked Corn: Cracked corn is a good supplementary feed source. When buying it, choose a medium sized grain. Small grain corn will turn to mush in humid or rainy weather, and large grains will be too big for small birds to comfortably eat.
- Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seeds are incredibly high in healthy fats, and small enough that almost any bird can safely eat them, so attract a wide variety of species
- Wheat and Oats: Wheat, Oats and other grains are cheap and can attract rodents, as well as rotting fast, so aren’t generally recommended
How do I keep my bird feeder clean and healthy?
The more birds that use your feeder, the higher the chances of disease and other issues arising.
Diseases are mostly transferred by bird droppings, so step one for keeping your bird feeders healthy is minimising the amount of droppings.
You can do this in several ways:
- If you’re using a bird table or ground feeder, watch the amount of food left on the feeder overnight. If there is a lot of food left over, reduce the amount of feed you put out.
- Regularly wash your feeders, if possible with a disinfectant solution, cleaning off droppings and eliminating any disease causing microbes.
- Hanging or vertical style feeders limit the amount of droppings that accumulate, and that birds are exposed to.
- Move feeders every few weeks, to minimise dropping build up in.
- If you have containers for water, for example a bird bath, it should be cleaned daily, with fresh water added only when it’s dry. Especially in hotter months, bacteria and droppings can quickly build up in water baths.