Bird Feeders: What's the Best Type of Feeder?

Best Bird Feeders for Cardinals and Other Birds

By Kris Wetherbee
September 14, 2018
How to Select a Bird Feeder

When a bird’s natural plant food has waned or withered away, consider a few well-placed bird feeders.  If you are interested in attracting certain types of birds, the type of feeder and food provided will make a difference.

Any simple construction with a flat surface, possibly lipped at the edges to prevent spillage and allow a suitable perch, will serve as a bird feeder. Add a simple roof to protect it from the weather. If you have cats, place the feeder high enough to be out of reach.

Four Type of Bird Feeders

However, if you do wish to cater to a specific kind of feathered friend in your area, consider four basic types of feeders:

  • A platform feeder or a bird feeder with a built-in tray will lure ground–feeding birds like juncos, towhees, and mourning doves. Place one to three feet above the ground.


  • Hung from a tree or mounted on a pole, “house”–style feeders with seed hoppers and perches on the side will usually entice grosbeaks, cardinals, and jays.


  • Long, cylindrical tube feeders suspended in air will bring in an array of small birds, including grosbeaks, finches, titmice, nuthatches, siskins, and chickadees.


  • A fruit feeder stocked with fresh fruit will tempt colorful birds like tanagers, orioles, bluebirds, and waxwings.


Wintertime Bird Boxes

In wintertime, consider providing shelter. Bluebirds—and more than 60 other species in North America—are cavity nesters. For example, bluebirds do not normally make their own nests and look for nooks and crannies in trees. But natural cavities in trees have become less available due to loss in habitat. To help, buy or make a “bird box” with small holes for entry and exist. (These birds don’t use perches so just a simple untreated wood box will do; pine wood is a good choice.) Winter birds enjoy a good suet, too, because their beaks do not naturally break open seeds and nuts found in most birdseed.


When Can You Feed the Birds?

Any time of year. A feeder simply attracts feathered friends your way so that you can watch them. Birds get their food from a variety of sources and migrate on their own schedule so your feeding doesn’t have much impact overall. In the case of a bad winter storm, however, your feed could actually make a difference.

What Can You Feed the Birds?


The 2005 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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Safflower seed.

Don't kid yourself!!! Chipmunks, and squirrels will come and sit right in my window feeder, which is filled with safflower seed, and have a feast!!! These bushy tailed rats (squirrels) even chewed the metal bottom out of my ceramic bird feeder!!! I will not harm them, but they are incredibly destructive, and yes, I know, they have to eat also?!?!?! Squirrels and chipmunks will scale my brick home, to get to the feeders. No problem for their sharp claws.

Outsmart the squirrels!!!

Avoiding empty feeders from squirrels thievery if you have a pole feeder or a line with feeders to twist a metal “old time” slinky child’s toy around the pole or line. Squirrels can’t get a grip nor do they like the shiny metal. Works great for me on both types.. plenty of food for the birds now!!!! The squirrels can seek out seed that falls to the ground!!!

Favorite birds at my backyard feeder

I love my bluejays. I add unshelled peanuts to the bird table and then I call for them with "big blues come on big blues get your peanuts" and here they come.

Bird Boxes

Hi- we rebuilt our outdoor deck this summer with pressure treated wood. We have a lot of scrap left over. Is it safe to build a bird box with this wood, or would it be toxic to the birds? Trying to figure out a use for all this material; maybe planters? But more of a planter where I insert a pot and not directly plant in the planter (due to whatever the would is treated with?). Any help or suggestions welcomed! Thanks

Pesky Squirrels

I have 3 Feeders and A Large Suet Holder, I’m Frustrated with the Squirrels Jumping On My Feedes, I even Have a The Pesky Feeders, What is My Solution? Fed Up!!


The squirrels are destroying my bird feeders. I’ve had plastic, metal & trays. I’ve got baffled around the the posts. I’me even feeding them at another spot. What do I do?

Pesky squirrels

We have had squirrel problems for years. They climb the poles, jump from trees, gobble all the seed, and are a terrible nuisance. Our solution was to put the feeder on an extra tall shepherd hook with a large tin baffle that my husband constructed under the feeder -- simply a large piece of tin with a hole in the middle. It's heavy, so we actually had to use 2 shepherd hooks to stabile everything. The feeder is also far enough away from trees and the back shed roof so they can't jump far enough to reach the sunflower seeds, although they have tried without success. And the baffle is wide enough so they can't get around it although they climb the pole trying, but can't. Sure has made bird feeding more pleasant and less expensive not to lose all the sunflower seeds to greedy squirrels.
We do have a ground platform where the squirrels and chipmunks can nibble on the bird seed along with the mourning doves, sparrows, etc.

I was camping and feeding

I was camping and feeding blue jays bits of bread. They ate me out of house and home. I made a bird feeder out of a branch of cypress with plenty of pine cones on it. It sat long-ways so I secured an empty sardines can on it and hung it in a tree. I put the bits of bread in the can and they loved it. Voila! No more feeding them all that bread like I did before.

i saw a hawk in a tree last

i saw a hawk in a tree last nite then noticed there were no birds ,how do i get the hawk away?? i know hummingbird food can sour but can it ever be so sugary??

1) It’s natural for hawks to

The Editors's picture

1) It’s natural for hawks to become attracted to birds at the feeder. Even though it is a hard thing to see a hawk kill a bird, it is doing what it needs to in order to survive, and will not catch more than it needs. Often, it will catch the weak, old, or sick birds rather than the healthy ones.
To protect the songbirds, try the following:
Place feeders under an opaque cover, if it doesn’t have one already, so that birds aren’t easily seen by air.
Locate your feeder within 10 feet of shelter for songbirds, such as shrubs, brush piles, or thickly leaved trees (but not so close that a ground predator might have access to pounce on birds at the feeder).
Remove any birdfeeder in the area for 10 to 14 days. The songbirds will move off for a while, and the hawk may move on to another territory. Replace the feeder afterward. (Repeat as needed.)
Eliminate dead branches of tall trees, which are perch sites for the hawks.
Hawks are protected by state and federal laws, and should not be harmed; contact a licensed professional if you need further help.

2) Yes, hummingbird water can have too much sugar in it. Not only would that not mimic flower nectar, it might cause harm to the birds. Pay close attention to the proportions mentioned in a hummingbird food recipe. Also, do not add red food coloring, artificial sweeteners, or honey to the liquid. Use four parts water to one part white sugar; boil (do not microwave) it for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it cool before adding to the feeder. Any cloudy liquid in the feeder should be replaced immediately; the feeder cleaned before adding the new food. In hot weather, you should change the food daily; otherwise, if the liquid stays clear, every 2 or 3 days should be OK.

I love feeding my birds.

I love feeding my birds. Enjoy your bird feeders, but don't forget the ground feeders too! Happy Spring.

I hung my finch feeder right

I hung my finch feeder right next to the new bird houses I made for small birds.. I made no perches and starlings cant land and try to take small birds nests.. I love feeding and watchin birds, but birds havent been feedin as much this spring or winter as far as that goes.. Mild winter I guess..

We have robins,blackbirds,

We have robins,blackbirds, and occasionally we get cardinals. The problem is that I got a lot of squirrels that get the food. What can I do to stop them from eating the seed.

I usually just try to

I usually just try to accommodate the squirrels also. Throw out nuts, berries, large bread chunks, cereal etc and they leave the bird food alone

I eliminated squirrel problem

I eliminated squirrel problem by using metal pole and and a squirrel guard from Menards (or Home Depot has?)--its a metal dome under feeder and over metal pole--squirrels cant climb metal--can use metal furnace pipe around pole also

I used a metal pole and

I used a metal pole and spread Vaseline on the pole. Squirrels couldn't climb.

I strung a wire between two

I strung a wire between two trees about 8 ft. off the ground. I put the wire thru some old water hose where it wrapped around the trees so-as not to hurt the trees. I also slipped several small 18" pieces of bamboo onto the wire for spacers. I hung bird feeders from the wire between the bamboo spacers. Without the spacers, the feeders tend to slide together. Squirrels can't walk on the wire or jump to the feeders.

Use safflower seeds.

Use safflower seeds. Cardinals love them but squirrels and chipmunks dont like them.

We have a lot of blue jays

We have a lot of blue jays around our house but the magpies take their food. Any suggestions?

Put out more food. Seriously,

Put out more food. Seriously, I don't mean to be flippant. I have found that several feeders plus a variety of foods pretty much takes care of everybody. TOFA has great suggestions for feeders and foods.

Hi, I enjoy all forms of

I enjoy all forms of nature but birds are what I see and enjoy the most. I see all types of woodpeckers but an occaisional pileated is a special treat. Chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, goldfinches, cardinals, robins, grackles. I'm probably forgetting some but that's what comes to mind. I get a few hummingbirds.