There are so many different types of bird feeders on the market right now. It’s great that there is a wide variety to choose from. However, I know from experience that it can be overwhelming for someone who is purchasing their first feeder to attract birds to their yard. It can also be confusing for an experienced birder who is setting up a bird feeding station for the first time.

The 7 main types of bird feeders are tube, platform, hopper, suet, nectar, nyjer, and specialty feeders. The best type of bird feeder for you will depend on the bird species in your area, their feeding preferences, and behaviors, as well as your yard size and budget.

In this article, we will explore the 7 main types of bird feeders, including their designs, features, and the birds they attract. We will also discuss the best types of feed to use with each feeder, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of which feeder is best for your yard and the birds in your neighborhood. So, let’s dive in!

1. Tube Feeders: Perfect for Smaller Seeds and Birds

7 Types of Birds Feeders for Your Backyard (2023)


Tube feeders are the most popular type of feeders. They consist of a long, narrow tube that holds seeds, and allow birds to access the feed via feeder ports that are located along the tube. Each port has a bird perch that the bird can sit on while feeding.

Smaller tube bird feeders, with their small feeder ports, are great for feeding small birds and are often used specifically for this purpose. Large tube bird feeders can draw bigger birds as well.

Plastic tube feeders are more commonly available, less expensive, and see-through so that you can tell how much seed is left in the tube. Metal tube feeders will hold up better but the disadvantage is that you can’t see the seed and so it’s hard to know when it’s time to refill the tube.

To fill the feeder, you remove the top cap and pour the feed in. Kids especially enjoy doing this!

Droll Yankee tube feeder

I particularly like this tube feeder from Droll Yankee

Design and Features

Some tube feeders come with built-in trays that make it easier for larger birds to plant their feet on the ground instead of trying to precariously stand on a bird perch that is too small for them. You can also purchase a tray to use for a tube feeder. This is one way to turn a “small-birds-only” feeder into a feeder that larger birds can enjoy as well.

There are two common variations of tube-shaped bird feeders that are discussed in the Specialty Feeders section of this post: these are caged and mesh feeders, which may also be squirrel-proof.

Birds and Feed

Smaller tube feeders with their smaller feeder ports and bird perches, attract small birds that like to perch, such as small finches, chickadees, and nuthatches. You can fill these feeders with small seeds like black-oil sunflower, nyjer seed (also called thistle seed), or millet seeds which small birds tend to like.

Larger tube feeders with larger feeder ports and bird perches, especially those with a tray, can attract larger birds such as cardinals, grosbeaks, and jays. You can use larger seeds such as safflower seeds, sunflower hearts, and mixed seeds.

Pros and Cons


  • Squirrels cannot easily access seeds in small narrow tube feeder ports
  • Seed is protected from rain and snow


  • Seed hulls can clog up the feeder ports
  • Seeds can build up along the seam where the tube meets the feeder base
  • Birds can get their heads stuck in the feeder ports

2. Platform Feeders: Will Accommodate Every Food Type


Platform bird feeders (also called ground bird feeders) look like dresser drawers to me. They feature a flat base that birds of all sizes can perch on to access food. Some have a bit of a “wall” around the platform to prevent seeds from blowing off. They are great feeders for all kinds of feed, including larger seeds which bigger birds love.

The design of platform feeders allows birds of all sizes and species to wander around at ease on the platform and select from the food that appeals to them. Squirrels and other critters also feed at platform feeders. Since they can be placed near the ground, they are perfect for ground-feeding birds as well.

Filling the feeder could not be easier – you just pour the food on the feeder and spread it out. There are no caps to remove and no lids to raise to gain access to the inside of the feeder.

The Going Green platform feeder by Woodlink

Check out the plastic Going Green platform bird feeder

Design and Features

Features like drainage holes, platforms with narrow slats, or removable screens will help keep seeds dry so they do not get moldy.

Birds and Feed

You can fill platform bird feeders with a variety of seed types, including sunflower, safflower, and millet seeds. You can also use fruit and mealworm. Platform bird feeders are often filled with black-oiled sunflower seeds since these attract the widest variety of birds.

Larger bird species particularly enjoy platform feeders. These include pigeons, doves, jays, blackbirds, cardinals, and crackles. You will also see smaller birds feeding from these, as well as squirrels.

Pros and Cons


  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to replenish
  • All kinds of food can be served
  • Birds of all sizes can easily land, perch, and feed
  • Multiple birds can feed at once
  • Great for ground-feeding birds when placed near the ground
  • Provides a clear view of birds while they are feeding


  • Exposed to elements
  • Seeds can get wet and develop fungus and bacteria
  • Can get very messy from bird droppings and other waste
  • Squirrels, raccoons, and cats can easily access
  • Wind can blow the feed off the platform
  • Does not hold as much seed as other feeders
  • Since birds of all sizes visit, large birds can dominate smaller birds

3. Hopper Feeders: Great Larger All-Purpose Option

Birds eating seeds and suet from Hopper feeder by Duncraft


Hopper feeders are similar to platform feeders, but they have a container and a covered roof. They look like adorable and decorative little houses, ranging from cute to elegant! The roof protects the seed from rain and snow.

A container below the roof houses the seed. The seed is emptied into a tray at the bottom of the container where the birds can then eat it. Hopper bird feeders also tend to be a bit more durable than tube or platform bird feeders since they are often made of metal or recycled plastic.

Many bird enthusiasts feel that this is the best all-around bird feeder, and a great choice if you have only one bird feeder. Since they tend to be on the big side, and since it might take birds a while to find a hopper, I suggest buying a smaller hopper at first so you don’t waste seed.

Three birds perching and eating at a hopper feeder that has 2 compartments for suet cakes

I like this hopper feeder by Stokes Select

Design and Features

Hopper feeders may come with additional features like adjustable bird perches or squirrel-proofing. Since squirrels enjoy visiting hopper feeders, you can also consider using a squirrel baffle that will prevent the squirrels from reaching the feeder. Some hoppers also contain compartments for suet and/or nyjer.

Birds and Feed

Hooper bird feed typically consists of either mixed seed or black oiled sunflower seeds, and the hoppers with special compartments can hold smaller seeds like nyjer, as well as suet cakes.

Small hopper bird feeders are perfect for small birds such as small finches, sparrows, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, siskins, and wrens.

Larger hopper feeders are quite comfortable for bigger birds, such as large woodpeckers, jays, doves, cardinals, and pigeons. Depending on the design and the seed used, many birds can often feed at the same time.

Pros and Cons


  • Can hold a large amount of seed
  • Can provide an area for birds to perch while feeding
  • Large birds visit if the birds’ perch width and size are large
  • Good for a variety of seeds, as well as Suet
  • Not as messy as some other feeders
  • Easy to clean and refill by removing the top of the feeder
  • If the hopper is clear, you can observe birds as they feed


  • With a large seed capacity, the wet seed is likely to breed bacteria and fungus
  • Squirrels and other rodents like to visit
  • Due to construction, hopper feeders may block your view of feeding birds
  • More expensive relative to platform and tube feeders

4. Suet Feeders: For High Energy-Packed Treats

Suet in suet feeder with colorful birds at feeder


Suet bird feeders are a great addition to a bird-friendly yard. Suet is a high-energy food made from animal fat that woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, and other birds love. These birds require a lot of energy to maintain their body temperature because they have a high metabolic rate.

Design and Features

Suet feeders are designed to contain solid suet chunks that birds can access. Since suet comes in many shapes, such as squares, balls, and even shreds, suet feeders come in a variety of shapes as well.

Bird eating from suet ball cage feeder

Some feature tail props which allow larger birds to stabilize themselves while feeding.

Suet feeder by company Birds Choice

This very nice plastic suet feeder from Birds Choice has a tail prop and room for 2 cakes

These are 3 of the more popular types of suet bird feeders:

Suet Cages are what most people think of when they think of suet feeders. Suet cage feeders are designed to hold a square suet cake. The suet cages may be affixed to hopper feeders or may be stand-alone, hung from a pole or tree. The cage helps to keep squirrels out and also protects the suet from nasty weather. Small birds can fly in between the gaps of the suet cage wire to access the suet. Large woodpeckers can access the suet due to their long bill and flexible necks.

suet caged bird feeder with two pieces of suet in the cage

This is a great caged suet feeder from the company More Birds

Hanging suet bags are made of mesh and contain suet balls and cakes. They are ideal for feeding smaller suet-eating birds.

Suet logs (also called suet plugs) look like logs. The suet logs have holes filled with suet plugs. Woodpeckers particularly enjoy suet logs.

Upside-down suet feeders are perfect for birds who can feed while hanging upside down.

Birds and Feed

There are many kinds of suet cakes, containing different ingredients such as insects, fruit, nuts, seed, and even hot pepper flakes. It’s important to select the right type of suet depending on the bird species you want to attract. For example, insect suet cakes are loved by woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Hot pepper suet cakes will also keep the squirrels away.

Softer-type suet cakes should be avoided in warmer climates since they don’t hold up well and can melt.

The Audubon Society states that the birds most likely to visit suet feeders are the chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and northern flicker.

Pros and Cons


  • Less likely to spill their content compared to loose seed-type feeders
  • If the Suet feeder is see-through, you can watch birds feed


  • Suet can melt in hot weather
  • Melted Suet leaves a greasy residue that attracts dirt
  • Squirrels and rodents love Suet

5. Nectar Feeders: A Sweet Oasis for Hummers

Hummingbird standing on top of vacuum type hummingbird feeder
Vacuum Style Hummingbird Feeder

Check out this highly rated vacuum-style hummingbird feeder with more than 13,000 ratings.


Most of us associate nectar feeders with Hummingbirds but Orioles love nectar as well! Nectar feeders are typically filled with a Hummingbird nectar concoction comprised of sugar and water. Since Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers, the typical Hummingbird feeder is also brightly colored in reds and yellows. Butterflies and other birds who like sugar water may also visit this feeder.

You may be surprised to learn that Hummingbirds can be territorial towards one another and can even occasionally chase larger birds away from their feeders. Because of their territorial nature towards one another, if you have more than one hummingbird feeder, place them at least 10 feet apart.

Design and Features

There are three different types of hummingbird feeders: vacuum feeders, pan/saucer feeders, and suction cup feeders.

Vacuum feeders release nectar from a container that is inverted and suspended above the base where the feeding ports are located. It is easy to check the amount of hummingbird nectar in the clear container.

Pan or saucer-type feeders contain nectar that is located in a dish below the feeding ports. They are not as prone to leaks and spills as vacuum-type feeders are, and are easy to clean. Some of them come with insect guards as well. However, it is harder to monitor the level of hummingbird nectar in the dish.

Hummingbird feeding from a hummingbird pan style feeder where nectar is below the feeding ports
Pan Style Hummingbird feeder

I like this Hummingbird pan-style feeder by Aspects

Suction cup feeders are the ones most of us have seen. They attach to the windows via suction cups and allow us to get an up-close view of hummingbirds in action, all from the comfort of our homes.

Birds and Feed

Hummingbird feeders attract hummingbirds, orioles, and other types of birds who like the taste of sugar water. Butterflies may visit as well. The feed consists of nectar, which is a mix of sugar and water. The nectar should be replenished every 3 days, and the feeder cleaned every week since spoiled nectar is very dangerous for hummingbirds.

Pros and Cons


  • The joy of watching hummingbirds as they feed


  • Feeders may cause hummingbirds to stop migrating
  • Feeders must be cleaned every 3-5 days
  • Bees that visit the feeders can sting and kill hummingbirds
  • Store-bought nectar is expensive
  • Feeders can attract ants, bees, and raccoons
  • A single large feeder may result in an adult male dominating the feeder

6. Nyjer Feeders: Nyjer for Small Clinging Birds

Goldfinch clinging to a nyjer bird feeder


Nyjer feeders (also known as thistle feeders) are designed to dispense Nyjer seed (also called thistle seed). Most Nyjer feeders are tube-style feeders comprised of a wire mesh material. There are small feeding ports where the birds can access the seeds through the gaps in the mesh. Birds will cling to the mesh as they feed.

Nyjer feeder with yellow tray base and cap

A great nyjer feeder from Perky Pet

Design and Features

In addition to nyjer tube feeders, here are some of the more popular variations of nyjer feeders:

Cluster type nyjer feeders consist of 2 or three tubes clustered together. There can be 12 or more feeding ports.

Nyjer soc feeders are named for what they look like. They are typically made of metal mesh or fabric that can be hung and which birds cling to.

Nyjer slit-style feeders consist of a clear plastic tube that stores the nyjer and that has small slits where the nyjer seed can be accessed. A bird perch is positioned below the feeding slits.

Birds and Feed

Njyer seeds are small black oil seeds that are popular with goldfinches, purple finches, sparrows, doves, juncos, and small colorful songbirds whose tiny beaks are perfect for consuming the nyjer. Nyjer seeds are high in protein and fat. This makes them perfect for birds that require a high-energy diet.

Nyjer seed tends to be expensive. However, it takes quite a while for birds to eat them so they do last longer.

Squirrels and large birds who tend to dominate feeders, such as blue jays, don’t enjoy Nyjer so they leave these feeders and the birds who feed from them alone.

Pros and Cons


  • Small feeder ports make it hard for squirrels and larger birds to access the seeds
  • The taste of nyjer does not appeal to squirrels and larger birds


  • There is speculation that birds may avoid the mesh feeders due to the feeling of mesh against their beaks
  • The seed scatters when it’s windy
  • Nyjer seed is relatively expensive



7. Mesh Feeders: Seed Versatility for Clinging Birds


Mesh feeders are made with wire mesh that birds can cling to as they feed. Mesh bird feeders are often associated with smaller clinging birds who enjoy nyjer seeds, such as small finches, but larger mesh feeders exist as well. The mesh thwarts the squirrels who try to extract the nyjer from the feeder since they can typically grab only one seed at a time.

Stokes mesh bird feeder

Mesh bird feeder from Stokes Select

Design and Features

Unlike the small mesh bird feeders that contain small seeds like nyjer, larger mesh feeders are designed for bigger seeds. Some mesh feeders come with two seed compartments that can be filled with small and large seeds. Feeders may also feature bird perches and trays. The mesh feeders can come in various shapes.

Birds and Seeds

Mesh bird feeders designed to serve nyjer seeds draw smaller birds like small finches. The feeders designed for larger seeds like sunflowers that feature bird perches and large trays can also draw larger birds such as cardinals, jays, and grosbeaks.

Pros and Cons


  • Mesh feeders effectively deter squirrels from stealing seed
  • Clinging birds enjoy clinging to the mesh while they eat
  • A twist-off lid and base make cleaning and refilling easy


  • Seeds may pass through the mesh and fall to the ground
  • Some birds may not like the feeling of the wire against their bills

8. Squirrel-Proof Feeders: Deters Pesky Critters


Squirrels can easily dominate and damage feeders. They are very crafty and will stop at nothing when trying to access a feeder.

I have watched amazing squirrel acrobatics from my sunroom as they hang upside down, leap into the air, and hurl themselves off of tree branches and rooftops to access my bird feeders. Fortunately, there are different types of feeders that do a good job of keeping them out.

Design and Features

Squirrel-proof feeders come in numerous designs but the most common ones feature a metal cage or weight-sensitive bird perches.

Cage feeders – Cage feeders are designed to keep both squirrels and larger birds from getting food out of feeders. The caged feeder design consists of a wire cage that surrounds a seed container. Smaller birds can easily pass through the cage to get at the seed in the container.

A caged bird feeder hanging above lawn

I like this caged tube bird feeder by Woodlink

Weight-sensitive feeders – These are cleverly designed feeders that are sensitive to weight – when a squirrel perches on this type of feeder then the feeder’s ports will automatically close. You can sometimes adjust the weight trigger to the weight of the squirrel as well.

Bird sitting on squirrel proof bird feeder

This is a great squirrel-proof feeder from Akerue

Another common weight-sensitive perch design consists of a perch that will collapse under the weight of a squirrel. Some designs feature perch rings that, when activated, will flip the squirrel off of the perch.

Birds are very light since they have hollow bones and consist mainly of feathers so even multiple birds on a feeder will not weigh as much as one squirrel.

Squirrel Baffles – You can also deter squirrels by placing squirrel baffles on poles that support feeders. The baffle will prevent the squirrel from climbing up the pole. Since squirrels can jump 5 feet up, 7 feet across, and 9 feet down, it’s also important to place the pole away from objects that are within jumping distance.

Hot sauce – A last resort for keeping squirrels at bay is to place a special squirrel hot sauce on bird seeds! Squirrels hate the taste, but birds won’t detect a thing since they have very few taste buds.

Pros and Cons

When squirrel-proof bird feeders work, then they are great. Some birders have had less success with squirrel-proof feeders than others. There have been reports of squirrels shaking squirrel-proof cage feeders from above so that seeds fall to the ground where the squirrels can then jump down to eat them.

Just keep in mind that the higher-quality squirrel-proof bird feeders tend to work the best. However, they will be more expensive.

9. Peanut Feeders: For Whole Nuts or Peanut Butter


Peanut bird feeders are designed to hold whole or shelled peanuts, or peanut butter. The feeders that hold peanuts are typically designed with a mesh pattern that allows birds to grab the peanuts between the gaps in the mesh. Peanut butter feeders usually feature small holes or a dish that contains peanut butter.

Design and Features

Peanut holders – Peanut bird feeders typically feature a mesh or spiral design that is constructed of steel that birds can cling to as they feed on whole peanuts. The mesh design also helps prevents squirrels from snagging the peanuts inside of the feeder.

Some of these feeders have an unusual shape when compared to other feeders. For example, some are shaped like Christmas wreaths.

Bird on a peanut feeder that is shaped like Christmas wreath

Check out this wreath-shaped peanut bird feeder by Naturesroom

Peanut butter holders – Some peanut feeders are designed for holding peanut butter and, instead of a mesh design, feature a peanut butter holder that may be encased in a wooden or plastic structure featuring multiple small holes or a circular dish.

Birds and Seeds

Peanut bird feeders are designed to hold peanuts or peanut butter which birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches love. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and fat which helps birds maintain their energy levels when they are migrating as well as during the cold winter months. The birds that are drawn to peanut feeders include cardinals, chickadees, flickers, grosbeaks, jays, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, and wrens.

Pros and Cons

Peanuts are high in nutrition and great nutrient-dense food for birds. However, peanuts can easily go bad after a short period. They can also attract squirrels and rodents.

Final Words on Best Types of Bird Feeders for Your Backyard

In conclusion, there are many different types of bird feeders to choose from, each with its own unique design and benefits. If you want to set up a bird feeding station or offer a variety of feeders with different types of bird food you will be able to draw a wider variety of birds to your yard.

Just remember to consider the types of birds you want to attract, their favorite types of foods, and their feeding habits. Some birds like to eat food on the ground, others like to cling to feeders, and others like to perch. Some birds prefer seed, while others prefer suet and other types of food.

Also keep in mind that to prevent birds from flying into windows, feeders should ideally be either less than 3 feet from your home or more than 30 feet away. This is one way to help prevent bird crashes.

By choosing the right types of bird feeders and food, you can provide nourishment and create a wonderful bird habit in your yard for birds to safely feed from, and enjoy. Smaller feeders can also be placed on a city balcony as well. Why not start today with even a single feeder and some seed to see how many beautiful bird species you attract. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities!