We’ve been experimenting with a variety of feeders over the past few months. The following is a list of the feeders we’re currently using and how they’re working for us at this time.
Standard Tube Feeder
Our primary tube feeder has 4 posts that accommodates 4 birds at a time. We’ve had the most success in this feeder with the “No Mess Blend” from Wild Birds Unlimited. The majority of this blend is sunflower hearts (we call it "bird crack"), with some hulled white millet and shelled peanuts in smaller quantities. The Goldfinches (both Lesser and American), House Finches, and even the White-Crowned Sparrows come to the feeder for this food (sparrows typically feed on the ground). The finches prefer this blend to even the finch-specific food we have in our finch feeder.
Finch feeders are specifically designed to dispense Nyjer seed, which is a favorite food of finches. Our tube feeder is made from a fine mesh that allows finches to hold on at any angle. We’ve had as many as 8-10 finches at a time on this feeder. We feed a Nyjer blend which also contains a small amount of crushed sunflower hearts. Even though this feeder is specifically designed for finches, they prefer the all-purpose tube feeder (above) loaded with sunflower hearts, and typically only come to this feeder when the other is fully occupied.
A tray feeder is simply a flat platform of any type for feeding seeds, peanuts, meal worms, fruit, or anything birds will eat. Ours is a small platform with raised edges and a ventilated bottom. The raised edges reduce spillage, while the ventilated bottom keeps the food from spoiling on rainy days. We typically feed whole Black Oil Sunflower seeds along with suet balls in this feeder (suet is a food containing primarily animal fat, with small amounts of other added ingredients). This feeder is a particular favorite of our White-Crowned Sparrows that come and go all day long, mostly taking the suet balls. It also attracts Scrub Jays, and even occasionally our Mourning Doves, which are quite a sight when trying to balance on the small feeder. The finches pretty much ignore this one.
Peanut Wreath Feeder
We recently added a peanut wreath feeder. This feeder is designed to dispense whole peanuts in the shell. We’re hoping to attract species such as Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees, and Nuthatches with this feeder, though so far it’s only been visited by our neighborhood Scrub Jay, who comes and goes all day, taking peanuts to cache elsewhere.
Peanut Ball Feeder
We don’t actually dispense peanuts in this feeder. Instead, we fill it with suet balls. This one is also very popular with the Sparrows and the Scrub Jays. Since we're already feeding suet balls in the tray feeder, I may switch this one over to shelled peanuts to bolster my effort to attract Nuthatches and Titmice.
Having a regular source of fresh water available for birds is nearly as attractive as food. There are all sorts of ways to make water available, from elaborate fountains and bird baths, to a simple bowl of water set on the ground near the feeder. We may eventually add a decorative bird bath, but in the meantime I converted one of our stainless steel dog water bowls to a hanging water bowl for the birds. I drilled 3 holes around the lip, then created a hanger using strands of artist’s picture wire. The birds love it!
If I had to recommend one feeder to start, I’d suggest a standard tube feeder filled with a blend consisting mainly of sunflower hearts. Among the foods we’ve tried so far, shelled sunflower seeds seem to be the undisputed favorite, at least with the small songbirds most of us want to attract. I’d place the feeder in a tree with low branches that has lots of nearby cover. Be sure to give the birds at least a week to discover the feeder before moving it to a new location.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that backyard birding is not unlike other types of interactions with wildlife. We humans have our ideas and theories, but ultimately the animals let us know what does and doesn’t work. Being sensitive to their behavior, and responding accordingly, seems to be the key to successfully attracting birds.
And finally, don’t forget to clean your feeders on a regular basis (we clean ours at least bi-weekly). Dirty feeders spread disease and make birds sick, which is exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve!
Let me know what types of feed and feeders you're using in the comments below!