Bird Feeding and Feeders

Feeding birds in winter is a rewarding way to watch wildlife at home. While providing some extra food you can observe birds and enjoy seeing different species up close and in the open. But you need to do it safely and ethically. Think of the food you are providing birds as a bonus – the birds can survive on their own without your bird feeder. 

There is plenty of food in the spring, summer and fall, so the only time birds are interested in your feeding site is the cold winter months when food is scarce and might be covered by snow.

Plan the placement of your bird feeders and baths with care to reduce window strikes (more on that from Birds and Windows and National Audubon). Birds are most likely to eat where they feel safe from predators, including free-roaming cats. Place feeders 12 feet (4 meters)from a brush pile, evergreen tree or bush. Birds can quickly fly the distance to reach safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. As further protection, place chicken wire or thorny branches around ground-level feeders.

Here's a list of different types of bird feeders:

Hopper Feeders: These are large, box-like feeders with a roof and feeding ports on multiple sides. They can hold a variety of seeds and attract a wide range of bird species.

Tube Feeders: These are tall, cylindrical feeders with multiple feeding ports and are typically filled with small seeds like sunflower seeds or thistle. They're great for attracting smaller birds like finches and chickadees.

Platform Feeders: These are flat trays or platforms where birdseed is spread out. They're attractive to ground-feeding birds like sparrows, doves, and juncos.

Suet Feeders: These feeders hold suet cakes or blocks, which are made from animal fat mixed with seeds, nuts, or insects. They're popular with insect-eating birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.

Nectar Feeders: These feeders are specifically designed for hummingbirds and hold a sweet nectar solution. They usually have small, elongated ports that allow hummingbirds to access the nectar.

Fruit Feeders: These feeders are designed to hold fresh or dried fruits, which attract fruit-eating birds like orioles, tanagers, and waxwings.

Thistle Feeders: Also known as nyjer feeders, these are specialized tube feeders with tiny feeding ports designed for dispensing tiny thistle seeds. They're particularly attractive to finches, such as goldfinches and siskins.

Mealworm Feeders: These feeders hold live or dried mealworms, which are a favorite food for bluebirds, robins, and other insect-eating birds.

Peanut Feeders: These feeders are designed to hold shelled or unshelled peanuts, attracting birds like blue jays, woodpeckers, and chickadees.

Window Feeders: These small feeders attach directly to windows using suction cups, providing a close-up view of feeding birds. They're usually filled with seeds or suet and are great for attracting smaller birds like chickadees and titmice.

Larger feeding platforms tend to attract larger birds, like starlings, which can dominate a feeder. More ideas about seed and feeder types for birds can be found at  Food for Birds and Project FeederWatch

Don't worry if you must stop feeding briefly. In all but the most severe weather conditions, wild birds will find other food sources in your absence, particularly in suburban areas where other bird feeders are just a short flight away. If you live in a rural or isolated area, however, try to arrange to have a neighbor maintain the feeders during winter absences.