All creatures deserve high quality food to develop optimally. Even birds that fly freely in the skies above us deserve more than mere scraps, wild fruits, and seeds that may be laced with pesticides and a whole lot of chemicals. Besides, one cannot deny that the tunes that birds sing are definitely more melodic, more relaxing than the metallic noise created by certain rock bands. No offense. As such, bird feeders are created to allow us to feed free-flying avian species with high quality food without necessarily impeding their sense of freedom. Bird feeders come in different types, shapes, and sizes and have become the centerpiece of any garden whose goal is to serve as a temporary haven for local and migratory birds for the whole family to enjoy. And if you’re thinking of adding a bird feeder in your garden, backyard, lawn, patio, or even in your window, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re your online resource for the best bird feeders to buy in 2018.
Bird Feeder Buying Guide
If you have already decided to add a bird feeder to your garden or even attach one on your window, you’ll find that you have plenty of options to choose from. While picking the right bird feeder system is crucial, equally important is your understanding of the different foods that these Mother Nature’s creatures feed on. This will help you better decide on the best avian feeding system to have in your home.
Why Buy a Bird Feeder?
There really is no other reason for buying a bird feeder than to contribute to the welfare and the long-term health of birds in the wild. Being in the wild may equate to being free. But this also means being exposed to a lot of danger from other birds and animals that are higher in the food chain. Most of the time, man’s activities have made wild birds’ source of food even more dangerous as chemicals are typically used in many of the foods that wild birds consume. There is stiff competition in the great outdoors. Squirrels, bears, deer, and other animals will also forage for the same food that birds subsist on. Providing these wild feathered creatures high quality food that only they can have access to underscores the importance of providing bird feeders in certain areas of our gardened homes.
Types of Bird Feeders
If you look at the market today you’d be greeted to a dizzying array of different types of bird feeders. The thing is that each one of these types is specifically intended to provide feed to birds that display a particular feeding behavior. For instance, if you’re looking to attract ground-feeding avian species, then a bird feeder that can be set on the ground or one with a low tray would be appropriate. Let us take a closer look at the different types of bird feeders.
- Platform feeders – these are perfect for pigeons, grosbeaks, sparrows, starlings, jays, doves, blackbirds, and juncos. These don’t provide protection against snow, rain, and even bird droppings. The best platforms are those with ample drainage at the bottom. The issue with these types of feeders is that the seed is an open invitation to almost any other creature that loves seeds.
- House feeders – also known as hoppers, these are attractive to finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, jays, buntings, sparrows, titmice, and other feeder birds. Sadly, these are also magnets for squirrels. You will need a squirrel baffle to keep these out. The seeds contained in these types of feeding devices can last a few days so you don’t have to replace it every now and then.
- Window feeders – these are excellent for viewing birds feeding up close and personal. These can be easily mounted on almost any nonporous surface but are ideally installed against glass windows to allow for unobstructed viewing of the birds while they’re feeding. These are easily accessible and are easy to clean, too, and have become the favorite of chickadees, finches, and titmice.
- Tube feeders – as the name implies, these are hollow cylindrical tubes that can help protect and secure the seeds inside from the weather as well as from foraging creatures like squirrels. These have feeding ports that come with weight activated closing mechanisms to keep out any bird species or other animals that is heavier than the designed weight of the tension spring. These are magnets for sparrows, titmice, finches, chickadees, and grosbeaks. Heavier bird species like jays and grackles typically won’t feed on such systems. The only downside of this type of avian feeding system is that seeds tend to collect at the bottom just below the line of the feeding port. This can become the perfect breeding ground for microorganisms. As such, emptying the tube feeder is important prior to replacing the feed.
- Nyjer feeders – these are designed primarily for American goldfinches, common redpolls, and pine skiskins as they are known to be especially fond with thistles or Nyjer seeds. These are available in two forms – thistle socks and tube feeders.
- Suet feeders – this type of avian feeding system is very simple, as simple as a platform or tray feeder. These are mostly made of wire mesh. In some cases, mesh onion bag will do. These are nailed to a trunk, suspended, or even mounted to a hopper feeder. These are magnets for woodpeckers, starlings, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, and titmice.
Which Foods Attract Which Birds?
One of the most crucial aspects of feeding birds is knowing which foods will naturally attract which birds. Unlike other pets that can subsist in a more generalized kind of sustenance, birds will require different foods depending on their unique characteristics especially their size. You simply cannot expect a very small bird to be chowing down on a corn kernel, can you? So, which foods will attract which birds? Let’s find out.
- Fruits – These remain the favorite of a great number of bird species. Males generally love fruits because certain flavonoids found in fruits help enhance their colors, a natural trait used in courtship displays. Robins, parakeets, chlorophonias, tanagers, waxwings, and hornbills are just some of the many avian species that love fruits.
- Nectar – The hummingbird is best known for its love for nectar. Other bird species that thrive on this juicy treat include the bananaquit, sunbird, myzomela, flowerpiecer, thrasher, and the sicklebill.
- Insects – A great number of birds feast on insects as their principal source of proteins. They simply cannot get this from eating fruits and sipping nectar. They need protein to help build their muscles to flap their wings, too. Woodpeckers, kestrels, swallows, kingfishers, cuckoos, drongos, and sparrows are just some of the bird species that love feasting on insects.
- Worms – Not all birds eat worms, but there are certainly those that treat these wriggly creatures as delicacies. The American robin and the black-bellied plover are both known to have a knack for earthworms. The same is true for the black-tailed godwit, the short-billed dowitcher, and the killdeer, just to name a few.
- Fish – Long before the invention of the fish sonar, coastal fishermen relied on birds to determine where the schools of fishes are so they can drop their net and haul in a hefty bounty. Birds are known to skim the water’s surface, steal fish from nets, or even spear the fish with their beaks. Most have developed an innate talent for plunge diving and surface diving to hunt for fish. The point is that the shape of their beaks ultimately determined whether they are especially adapted for hunting creatures of the deep or not. The African fish-eagle, American dipper, anhinga, Atlantic puffin, bald eagle, common tern, double-crested cormorant, the osprey, and the gulls are just some of the bird species that have developed their skill for hunting fish.
- Amphibians – Frogs and other amphibians, it would seem, are quite delectable to the African pygmy kingfisher, black-crowned night heron, blacksmith lapwing, and the common greenshank. Other bird species are known to have a natural tendency to devour on frogs and other amphibians.
- Reptiles – Have you seen birds preying on reptiles? While we’re not talking about crocs and gators here, there are birds that love smaller reptiles. They include the black vulture, crested caracara, ferruginous pygmy-owl, great blue heron, and the greater roadrunner, just to name a few.
- Other birds – There are birds that love nothing else than to feed on other birds, typically those lower in the food chain. Examples of these are the falcons, hawks, African finfoot, American kestrel, and the cattle egret, among others.
- Mammals – Some bird species like the barn owl prefer live, kicking mammals as their favorite dinner. Aside from owls, other mammal-eating birds include the buzzard, the eastern screech-owl, the northern harrier, and the red-billed hornbill.
- Carrions – These birds love feeding on carcasses. Examples are the American crow, black vulture, common crow, raven, and the golden eagle.
- Eggs – Did you know that eggs are an excellent source of nutrition for our avian friends? It doesn’t really matter what kind of egg it is, but many birds sure love feeding on eggs. Examples of these birds are the American dipper, the Boat-tailed grackle, the Hood mockingbird, the laughing gull, and the Laysan finch, to name a few.
The following are what birds will normally feed in the wild. But of course you cannot expect to put carcass into your bird feeder. The only feed types that you can place in these gadgets are seeds, also called bird seeds. As such, we’ve decided to come up with a separate list of which seeds will attract which birds.
- Sunflower seeds – you can say that sunflower seeds are the best all-around feed for almost any type of bird. Unfortunately, squirrels love sunflower seeds, too. As such, your choice of bird feeder should help keep these creatures from gaining access into the feed.
- Safflower seeds – this is a favorite of cardinals as well as doves, chickadees, native sparrows, and grosbeaks. They’re quite tough to crack and most house sparrows, squirrels, and European starlings don’t like it.
- Thistle or Nyjer – these are the favorite of small finches.
- White proso millet – quails, doves, cardinals, American sparrows, towhees, and juncos. These are the favorite of house sparrows and cowbirds, too. If you do decide to use millet, make sure to use low tray feeders.
- Corn, shelled or cracked – grouse, quails, cardinals, crows, jays, doves, pheasants, turkeys, ducks, cranes, ravens, and grosbeaks. Sadly, they’re a favorite by bears, deer, raccoons, house sparrows, and cowbirds, too. What’s more, corn is most likely contaminated with aflatoxin. Avoid dyed corn or buttered popcorn or any type of corn that is intended for farming.
- Peanuts – crows, titmice, chickadees, jays, and woodpeckers. These are favorites of bears, squirrels, and raccoons, too. They are quite prone to harboring aflatoxins. As such, peanuts should be kept dry and be used pretty quickly.
- Sorghum or milo – Steller’s jays, Gambel’s quails, curved-bill thrashers, cowbirds, and other ground-feeding species. These can be placed in low tray feeders.
- Canary seeds and rapeseed – quails, finches, juncos, doves, house sparrows, and cowbirds. Most folks don’t like to invite the last two bird species so these seeds are not often used.
Whether it is a simple platform feeder or a more sophisticated tube feeding system, the important thing is for you to truly understand the need for such systems. The sense of being able to provide good quality food for some of Mother Nature’s creatures should be the primary motivation for picking and buying the right one.