This Red-winged Blackbird overindulged at the bird buffet.
Creating a proper backyard bird feeding design requires research into species needs, feeder design, and food selections. Birds Choice has done that research for you, and we present our "Bird Buffet Guide."
Match the feeders to the birds
When building your new garden restaurant, consider your customer base! Select the correct feeders, foods, ambiance, and location. Birds can be as picky as humans, so use the following information to build your birding menu!
Platform feeders are beloved by larger bird species.
Seed type: Platform feeders are built for more bird diversity usage. While preferences can vary by species, sunflower and other larger seeds are the best food source to pair with this plating option. Sunflower seeds attract the widest variety of birds. Peanuts can also be used in platform feeders, though jays might empty your pantry too quickly!
Smaller birdseed like millet and milo can be used with platform feeders if the drainage holes are not too large! Why put a smaller seed in with your sunflower seed in a platform feeder? Corvids, like Blue Jays, love milo and millet, and adding it to your platform feeder can drive them wild!
Birds attracted: Platform feeders can draw birds, both big and small. Pine Siskins will overbook your platform feeders during irruptive winters. When not dripping in finches, other birds like jays, blackbirds, doves, thrashers, grosbeaks, and buntings will claim the black gold in your feeder.
Pro tip: Want to add extra spice to your platform bird feeder? Try dried mealworms and berries to attract bluebirds, robins, and other birds that do not prefer birdseed.
Finches, chickadees, and nuthatches love tube feeders!
Seed type: Tube feeders generally support three main birdseed types, sunflower seed, Nyjer, and peanuts. The tube feeder you select will determine your food choice. Some birdseed bags will mix multiple kinds of kernels; be sure all seed types can fit through the mesh or feeder ports. Consider your tube feeder a specialty restaurant. It serves one dish really, really well.
Birds attracted: Tube feeders are great for drawing concentrations of particular bird flocks without a build-up of droppings. Nyjer tube feeders will attract Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches; peanut tube feeders will lure in Blue Jays, nuthatches, and chickadees; sunflower seed feeders will attract cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, buntings, sparrows, and finches.
Pro tip: Do not mix or use the mixed seed in tube feeders. Most tube feeders are designed for a specific seed type, and different birdseed can spoil unevenly. However, tube feeders with ports need some of the most rigorous cleanings, as they can play a role in the spread of House Finch eye disease.
Seed type: Fill hopper feeders with sunflower seeds, peanuts, mealworms, or other large foods. You may have to put a daily ration out so you are not cleaned out by the mob of birds that will visit. Millet and milo can be used with hopper feeders, like platforms, if the drainage holes are not too large. The covered seating will be popular, even during a rainy luncheon.
Birds attracted: Medium to smaller birds will appreciate the hopper feeder most. Some larger species do not like feeding under cover of the roof.
Pro tip: The hopper feeder protects from the elements, preventing the seed from getting damp and requiring disposal.
Seed type: Suet feeders do not hold birdseed! Instead, fill your suet feeders with the greasy fat block loaded with bird treats. Suet bricks can contain peanuts, corn, sunflower seed, millet, mealworms, fruit, and berries. Hanging multiple suet feeders and offering a variety of suet cakes will create the amuse-bouche of your backyard buffet. Many birds appreciate the quick drive-thru-like qualities of the suet cage. Sometimes you just need a greasy meal.
Birds attracted: Woodpeckers and nuthatches may be the main target of your suet feeders. However, suet can attract the most unusual feeder birds! From magpies to warblers, robins to juncos, and grosbeaks to tanagers, suet cakes offer a high-fat, high-calorie option.
Pro tip: Typical suet may melt during hot months; suet dough will do better in the heat. Or, take the suet down during the summer and replace it with a different feeder type! Do you have starlings using your suet? Try a suet feeder that hangs upside down, or fill a suet log!
Mesh finch feeder
Seed type: Mesh feeders work best with Nyjer seed. Why? The wire mesh's small holes only allow tiny seeds or small seed bits to pass through the openings. The mesh feeder is that hole-in-the-wall locale for picky eaters.
Birds attracted: Smaller finches especially love mesh feeders. They can actively cling to the mesh, providing space for multiple birds to feed at once. Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Purple Finch, chickadees, and Cassin's Finch can all be found "hanging around" a mesh feeder!
Pro tip: Pair mesh feeders with sunflower seed feeders to offer smaller birds a space to feed when larger birds drive them away from the sunflower feeder.
Seed type: No seed goes into a hummingbird feeder! Instead, fill your hummingbird feeder with homemade nectar made from one part refined sugar and four parts warm water. Let the water cool, then fill your hummingbird feeder. The hummingbird feeder is your local lemonade stand. It provides a sugary burst of delicious liquid for an energy burst!
Birds attracted: Hummingbirds LOVE hummingbird feeders, but other birds, like orioles, will also make a visit to your sugary dessert.
Pro tip: Use the ant moat built into most feeders to prevent ants from accessing your sugar water. If you have problems with bees, consider a hummingbird feeder that does not use white and yellow colors.
Seed type: Like the hummingbird feeder, the oriole feeder does not require seed or fat. Top this feeder's reservoirs with jelly, and fill the main tank with nectar for orioles and hummingbirds! These sugary food stands are sure to attract big crowds of colorful birds!
Birds attracted: Orioles will be your primary dinner guests, but hummingbirds and tanagers may also stop by for a quick bite.
Pro tip: Keep your jelly, nectar, and oranges fresh! Want to keep curious mammals out of them? Bring them inside overnight!
Don’t let your bird buffet become “that place”
All new restaurants are clean, delicious, and exciting. After a few months, inattention to detail can lead to the deterioration of this new hotspot. Want to prevent that with your bird feeders? Keep them clean. Change your food regularly. Replace broken feeders. Try new bird feeders with new food types. Have seasonal menu options. Occasionally have a weekly special. Be clean, be fresh, and keep your feathered friends and customers happy.