There are several basic types of bird feeders.
Which one(s) you select depend(s)
types of birds that you wish
to attract as
well as issues with maintenance.
- Tray Feeders. Mounted on a post or hung on a wire, these
are the simplest and cheapest. You just lay
seeds on the tray. However, exposure to the
elements such as rain or snow will soak the
seeds, which then rot. Another problem: if
squirrels get on your feeder, they can make
short work of the seeds.
- "House" Feeders. A narrow box, usually resembling a miniature
house, stores the seeds. There are slits
along the bottoms of the 2 longer sides.
The birds take seeds from these slits. The
box either sits in the middle of a tray,
or has perches on either side. It can be
made of wood, plastic, metal or a combination
thereof, and can be hung or mounted. They
are better than trays both because they protect
the main store of seeds from the elements
and because it is harder for squirrels to
eat the seed. If buying this type, look for
ones that close off access to the seeds if
an animal (like a squirrel) that weighs significantly
more than a group of birds stands on the
platform or perch.
- Tube Feeders. Mounted on a post or hung, tube feeders
are made of either metal or clear plastic
with a tube that is filled from the top and
dispenses seeds to the birds through several
holes. Each hole has a short (about 1"
long) metal perch in front of it for a single
bird. This design protects seeds from the
elements. Although it is not completely squirrel-proof,
it does make them work for their meal if
they get on the feeder. The small perches
are ideal for small birds (finches, warblers,
chickadees, etc.) and shut out large ones
like blackbirds, jays, crows and pigeons.
- Thistle Feeders. Thistle, also known as niger or nyger seed,
is a favorite food for many smaller finch
species. These feeders are mesh bags that
are hung. Smaller finches hang on them, sometimes
upside-down, and pull seeds through the mesh.
- Suet Feeders. These rectangular wire cages, often vinyl-coated,
hold a preprocessed suet cake. Suet (usually
beef fat) is a high-energy food that attracts
many species of birds, especially woodpeckers,
in cold weather. They are hung.
- Hummingbird Feeders. A major composition of hummingbirds' diet
is flower nectar, which is essentially sugar
water. These feeders are reservoirs for sugar
water with one or more ports from which the
birds can sip. Some models also can accommodate
larger birds with thin bills that also enjoy
fruit and nectar, such as orioles. You need
to replace the sugar water every few days,
or it will ferment and become toxic to the
birds. Also, if you live in the north, you
must remove these feeders as fall approaches
so as not to encourage hummingbirds to delay
their migrations south too long..