Backyard birding is a relaxing and rewarding hobby that is easy to do and fun to learn. A bird feeder, bird food and a hanging method are all you need to get started with the basics. So what type is best and what should you consider when choosing a bird feeder for your yard?

With so many different seed and feed options, capacities, feeding mechanisms and styles, it may seem overwhelming to choose the right bird feeder. Explore the basics of platform, tube, hopper, suet, nectar and Oriole bird feeders, which birds they attract, feed to use and whether you should consider adding it to your yard.

Platform Bird Feeders

A platform bird feeder, also called a tray feeder, is simply made up of a flat seed tray held within a frame. Platform feeders are an excellent choice for any birder who wants to attract the widest variety of birds with virtually any type of seed. Birds can use the walls of the feeder to perch and feed, but some prefer to hop right into the seed! The open design of this feeder allows many birds of multiple sizes to feed at once, making for a busy and exciting experience!

Since these feeders expose the seed to the elements, it’s important to look for one with a perforated seed tray that allows for rain drainage. Because of its open design, squirrels may be more likely to attempt to reach the seed. A squirrel baffle and correct placement will help deter feeder pests.

finches feeding from platform bird feeder

Attracts these birds: Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Titmice, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Finches, Jays, Juncos, Woodpeckers

Seed to use: Black oil sunflower, striped sunflower, hulled sunflower, safflower, cracked corn, nuts, mixed, in-shell peanuts, shelled peanuts

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Attracts the widest variety of birds
  • Use virtually any type of seed
  • High seed capacity
  • Accommodates many birds at one time
  • Great for beginning birders
  • Optimum bird visibility (great for bird photographers!)

Keep in mind:

  • Squirrels have easy access to seed (click here for squirrel proofing tips)
  • Seed exposed to elements

Browse platform feeders.

Tube Bird Feeders

A tube bird feeder is made up of a long, slim cylinder with feeding ports and perches. Some tube feeders also have a seed tray attached to the bottom to catch seeds and prevent mess on the ground. Tube feeders are filled through the top by lifting or popping open the lid. These feeders are great options for attracting a wide variety of birds in a compact vertical space.

There are a few types of specialty tube bird feeders, including mesh and squirrel proof. Mesh tube feeders allow birds to cling to the mesh while feeding, eliminating the need for feeding ports and accommodating a large number of birds at once. Squirrel proof tube feeders use a variety of mechanisms to deter feeder pests, including built-in roof baffles, weight-sensitive outer tubes and spring-loaded perches.

finches feeding from tube bird feeder  goldfinches feeding from mesh tube bird feeder  birds feeding from squirrel proof bird feeder

Attracts these birds: Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Titmice, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos, Finches

Seed to use: Black oil sunflower, striped sunflower, hulled sunflower, safflower, cracked corn, nuts, mixed; thistle inserts for feeding Nyjer

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Attracts wide variety of birds
  • Use a wide variety of seed
  • Keeps seed contained and out of the elements
  • Compact vertical space
  • Squirrel proof options available
  • Mesh options available

Keep in mind:

  • Small seed, like thistle/Nyjer, may require a specialty feeder or a feeder with 2-in-1 seed ports (All Nature’s Way tube feeders come with specialty thistle inserts included)
  • Limited bird accommodation depending on number of feeding ports (unless using mesh)
  • Less likely to attract Woodpeckers and Jays

Browse tube feeders.

Hopper Bird Feeders

Hopper bird feeders have one main seed chamber with open slots on the bottom of either side that allow the seed to flow through onto the base seed tray. Horizontal hopper feeders may also come with suet cages attached on either side, allowing multiple feed options in one feeder and attracting an even wider variety of birds. Vertical hopper feeders have extended base trays to accommodate larger birds and can also have feeding ports and perches on either side to increase the number of birds feeding at one time.

lots of birds feeding from hopper bird feeder  birds feeding from hopper bird feeder

Attracts these birds: Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Titmice, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Finches, Jays, Juncos, Woodpeckers

Seed to use: Black oil sunflower, striped sunflower, hulled sunflower, safflower, cracked corn, nuts, mixed, shelled peanuts, suet cakes (depending on model)

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Attracts wide variety of birds
  • Use a wide variety of seed or feed
  • Accommodates many birds at one time
  • High seed capacity
  • Compact vertical space (vertical hopper models only)
  • Suet options available

Keep in mind:

  • Small seed, like thistle/Nyjer, is not recommended in this feeder type

Browse horizontal and vertical hopper feeders.

Suet Bird Feeders

Suet bird feeders are built with steel mesh cages that hold one or more suet cakes. Suet feeders are a good choice to have out in the cold winter months when birds are looking for high energy food sources, but they can be used year-round to attract a variety of birds. Suet comes in many different forms, including cakes, balls or logs and feeder design will vary to accommodate each type. You may also choose to make your own suet.

To accommodate larger birds like woodpeckers, some suet feeders are elongated into a tail-prop design, allowing them to balance their body weight by placing their tail against the feeder. Some suet feeders expose the suet at the bottom. These upside-down feeders help deter nuisance birds like Starlings and Grackles who are most comfortable feeding upright.

pileated woodpecker feeding from suet bird feeder  woodpecker feeding from upside down suet bird feeder

Attracts these birds: Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches

Seed to use: Suet cakes, in-shell peanuts

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Great option for cold climates (but can also be used in temperate climates)
  • Tail-prop design option attracts Woodpeckers
  • Upside-down design option deters nuisance birds

Keep in mind:

  • Suet can melt and get rancid quicker in hot temperatures (look for no-melt suet varieties during extreme summer temperatures and check suet in upside down feeders frequently)

Browse suet feeders.

Nectar Bird Feeders

Nectar feeders, or hummingbird feeders, come in two main styles: gravity and top-fill. Gravity feeders are filled by turning the feeder upside-down and removing the base to open. Some gravity feeders can also be filled by removing the ant moat at the top, if equipped. Top-fill feeders have lids that either lift up or are removed from the main base dish in order to be filled. Some top-fill nectar feeders are built with a suction cup mounting system that attaches directly to your window, giving you an up-close view of the hummingbirds! All nectar feeders have feeding ports which allow the hummingbirds to drink the nectar inside, and some feeders include perches or perching rings to increase hummingbird feeding time.

As some of the most attractive bird feeders, nectar feeders come in many bright and colorful designs that will bring beauty to your yard. To learn about all of the features and styles of hummingbird feeders to help you choose, check out our hummingbird feeder guide. You can also take a short quiz and receive personalized recommendations to help you choose the best nectar feeder for you based on your hanging location, budget, style preferences and more.

top fill hummingbird feeder  gravity hummingbird feeder  window hummingbird feeder

Attracts these birds: Hummingbirds

Feed to use: Nectar

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Attracts hummingbirds
  • Many beautiful styles
  • Up-close viewing (window feeder models)

Keep in mind:

  • Hummingbirds are migratory, so depending on your location the season may be short
  • Feeding nectar can attract unwanted pests like bees or ants (some feeders have bee- and ant-resistant features)
  • Nectar can spoil quickly, especially in warm temperatures (remember to change nectar often)

Browse nectar feeders and learn about solutions to common hummingbird feeder challenges.

Oriole Bird Feeders

Since Orioles are typically found foraging high in trees for insects, flowers, and fruit, they can be tricky to spot. They also tend to be more skittish than other backyard birds, but you can be successful in attracting them to feeders. Oriole feeders have dishes for jelly or nectar and spikes to easily feed oranges and fruit slices. Some also have built-in perches that encourage the birds to feed for a longer period of time and can also have protective baffles that shield the feeder and its contents from the weather.

oriole bird feeder

Attracts these birds: Orioles, Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Feed to use: Nectar, Oranges, Jelly, Fruit slices

Why you should choose this feeder:

  • Attracts Orioles

Keep in mind:

  • Orioles are migratory, so depending on your location the season may be short
  • Feeding nectar and fruit can attract unwanted pests like bees or ants (some feeders have bee- and ant-resistant features)
  • Nectar, fruit, and jelly can spoil quickly, especially in warm temperatures (remember to change feed often)

Browse oriole feeders.

8 comments

  • Hi Ken,
    Thanks for reaching out to Nature’s Way. Please email Customer Service at info@natureswaybirds.com with your feeder model number (or a picture of your feeder if you aren’t sure of the model number) and we can reach out with more information. Thank you!

    - Nature's Way Bird Products
  • Is there an instruction manual (preferably a pdf) for setup and installation of a squirrel proof feeder?

    We are having difficulty with setup of the nyger seed inserts.

    - Ken
  • Hi Susan, Please email your questions to our Customer Service department at info@natureswaybirds.com so we can assist you. Thank you!

    - Nature's Way Bird Products
  • How do I get the sticker off the glass without harming it?

    - Susan
  • Hi Randene, We are glad you like the new feeder! We do carry replacement parts for our feeders and our Customer Service department will reach out to you via email. Happy birding!

    - Nature's Way Bird Products

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