Feeder Preferences

Preferred Bird Feeders

While there are numerous types of bird feeders, all bird feeders are not equally attractive to wild birds. Smaller bird species such as chickadees and finches may be found at all types of feeders. Larger birds such as woodpeckers and grosbeaks may prefer hopper and platform feeders over smaller tubular feeders.

Some species are not attracted to traditional tube, hopper, and platform feeders, but do visit feeders offering alternative bird foods. For example, to attract bluebirds and wrens use a mealworm feeder, and to attract hummingbirds and orioles put up a nectar feeder.

Ground Feeders

Almost all birds find food on the ground, but not all prefer it. In some cases, if food is available in an elevated feeder, the birds knock the feed to the ground. Ground-feeding birds include juncos, doves and sparrows. They are content with seeds, but also eat stale bread and small pieces of fruit. If you want to attract wrens and bluebirds, add meal worms to the ground feeder instead of seeds.

Platform and Hopper Feeders

An open platform, or one that allows feed to flow onto an open area from a hopper, is one of the most common ways of offering wild bird food. While it’s possible to add a mixture of seeds to attract a variety of birds, you can also serve just one kind of seed, which limits the types of birds that come to the feeder. Cardinals, blue jays, pine siskins and woodpeckers are among the birds that prefer the openness of a platform or hopper feeder. These feeders also make it easier to feed the larger seeds, such as sunflowers and cracked corn, that some of these birds prefer to eat.

Tube Feeders

Some birds like to have a perch to sit on as they feed, such as that provided by a tube feeder. The feeders also have various-sized openings to which you can match the feed opening to the type of seed. For example, if you want to attract goldfinches, put feeder openings small enough for thistle seed in the feeder. Goldfinches have small, narrow beaks they use to pull the seeds out to eat. Birds with wider beaks, such as sparrows, can’t get their beaks into the smaller opening to eat the seeds. If you prefer to attract a variety of birds, put larger feeder openings in the tube feeder and fill it with mixed seeds, such as cracked corn, sunflower seeds, millet and peanuts. Some of the birds that prefer tube feeders include indigo buntings, chickadees, finches and nuthatches.

Nectar Feeders

Some birds, such as hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles, feed on nectar from feeders in addition to small insects. Orioles eat small seeds as well. While hummingbirds and orioles don’t need a perch to feed, many use it if the feeder has one. Prepare nectar by boiling 4 parts water and 1 part sugar. Cool the liquid before adding it to the feeder. Often, nectar has red food coloring added to it to attract the birds. Once the birds know where the feeder is, the color is not necessary. Ready-made nectar is also available.