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12 Types of Bird Feeders (Attract Different Species)

Bird watching is a rewarding hobby, but attracting a variety of birds requires the use of different types of feeders. Different bird species have unique feeding preferences and behaviors, which has led to the development of various bird feeders. In this article, we’ll explore different types of bird feeders, from Hopper to Window feeders, and understand how each design caters to specific bird needs, helping you choose the perfect feeder for your feathered visitors.

The different types of bird feeders

The types of feeders we’ll discuss in this article are the hopper feeder, known for its convenience in holding a large quantity of seed; the tube feeder, which is a great choice for beginners; the ground or platform feeder, ideal for attracting a diverse range of birds and other wildlife; the caged feeder, designed specifically for smaller birds; the suet feeder, a favorite for attracting woodpeckers; the nyjer or thistle feeder, best suited for drawing in goldfinches; the peanut feeder, popular among woodpeckers, jays, and titmice; and the window feeder, perfect for those who want to enjoy bird watching without a yard.

Each of these feeders offers unique benefits and caters to different types of birds, ensuring that bird enthusiasts can find the perfect match for their feathered friends.

1. Hopper feeder

Hopper bird feeders are usually house shaped with a roof and great for feeding a large variety of birds. Most will have a feeding ledge on both sides big enough for multiple birds of multiples sizes.  They can be hung on a hook, from a tree, or mounted on a pole.

They’re called “hoppers” because they function similar to large agricultural hoppers that store and dispense vegetables and grains. You may also hear them referred to as house feeders or ranch feeders.

2. Tube feeder

birds extra large tube feeder

Tube bird feeders are usually clear plastic tubes with 2-6 metal perches staggered along the outside. They can hold quite a bit of seed, it just depends on the size. Anywhere from 1-5 pounds seed capacity is normal for a tube feeder.

3. Platform feeder

two mourning doves on a platform feeder
Two mourning doves eating seeds from my platform feeder | image by

Sometimes referred to as tray feeders, these feeders very simple open and usually come with some type of screen bottom for drainage. They’re easy to fill and clean, and will also attract a large variety of birds quickly with the seeds in plain site. A platform feeder is usually hung from a tree or hook but can also be mounted on a pole or double as a ground feeder.

4. Ground feeder

These are simply feeders that sit on the ground either on small legs or just directly on the ground. Like tray feeders they are also open feeders with screen bottoms for drainage. Some ground feeders may also have a roof giving birds added security from hawks and other predators. This way it functions as a “fly-through feeder”.

5. Caged bird feeder

A caged bird feeder is usually just a tube feeder with a bird cage built around it. They are meant for feeding smaller birds like finches, titmice, or chickadees and will keep out pests like squirrels as well as larger birds like starlings and grackles.

6. Suet feeder

hairy on suet
Hairy woodpecker on suet feeder | source:

A suet feeder is a bird feeder that is specifically designed for holding blocks of suet. A suet cake is made of animal fats mixed with seeds and grains. It contains important high energy vitamins and nutrients that birds need. The suet feeder itself is just a cage housing for these suet cakes, most will hold 1-2 suet cakes.

Birds of all different types and sizes will enjoy a suet feeder, anything from titmice and wrens to woodpeckers. The Pileated Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in North America, is attracted to suet feeders and is a cool bird to have visit your yard.

7. Nyjer/thistle feeder

Flock of Goldfinches enjoying my Nyjer feeder during the winter.

First, nyjer and thistle are the same thing so you may hear this type of feeder referred to as either. Thistle feeders are normally shaped like a tube feeder but are made of screen or mesh designed for holding the nyjer seed.

They can attract a number of different small birds, but this type of feeder is known for mainly attracting finches and is commonly called a “finch feeder”. If you love goldfinches like I do then you should consider one for your yard.

8. Peanut feeder

Peanut feeders, similar to thistle feeders, are tube shaped and made of mesh or screen for holding shelled peanuts. Several types of birds love peanuts and will visit this type of feeder, some of the more common ones are bluejays, woodpeckers, and titmice.  A great addition to any bird feeding station.

9. Window feeder

cardinal window feeder
Male cardinal eating from window feeder

Window feeders are perfect for people who have little or no yard of their own but also great for someone who wants to get started feeding birds as simply as possible. Window feeders stick on the outside of a window with suction cups.

Once birds find it, you’ll get an up close view of them taking snacks throughout the day. They are normally small tray feeders for seed but you can also get window hummingbird feeders.

10. Hummingbird feeder

multiple hummingbirds at feeder
Multiple Hummingbirds at feeder, some eating nectar, some hovering waiting their turn

Hummingbird feeders hold hummingbird nectar and come in all shapes and sizes. They are usually red in color with little flowers for feeding ports that are sometimes yellow. I find a simple plastic hanging feeder with about 4 feeding ports is the way to go.

11. Oriole feeder

Scott’s Oriole (male) | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Oriole feeders are a special type of feeder designed specifically for feeding orioles. Some resemble normal house feeders and others may look more like hummingbird feeders. The feeder will have glass or plastic dishes for holding grape jelly, along with spikes in various places for orange halves.

Orioles love oranges and the jelly, you’ll also find many oriole feeders are orange because the birds are very attracted to the color.

12. Squirrel proof feeder

squirrel proof bird feeder
A squirrel unable to get seed from a Squirrel Buster bird feeder

Squirrel proof feeders are usually hopper or tube type with built in mechanics for deterring squirrels. Many times they use a counter-weight system that shuts off access to the food when an animal of a certain weight tries to access it.

I recommend one that allows you to adjust what weight will trigger the mechanism, so you can selectively feed the birds and animals in your yard.

Keep in mind, if your feeder is hung from a hook that isn’t at least 18″ away from the pole then you’re asking for squirrel trouble. They will hang onto the pole by their little legs shifting all of their weight off of the counter weight that’s on the feeder. This allows them to steal seed from a squirrel proof feeder.

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