The best bird feeders for your garden

Attract some garden birds and care for your feathered friends.

Bird feeder

by Eleanor Weaver |

Out of all the morning alarms, there’s nothing quite as lovely as the gentle wake of bird song – nature’s alarm clock.

But if you’re missing out on this luxury, or just want to enjoy seeing a greater selection of British birds, getting a bird feeder for your garden will help encourage them to your backyard.

Feel the pride in connecting with nature, feeding and caring for feathered friends, and you never know, your garden might even become home to some young chicks!

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And if you don’t have a garden, there are plenty of bird feeder options including those you can hang on your windows.

We've listed the best bird feeders to buy and included some FAQs to tempt and treat your neighbourhood birds to the best buffet in town.

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What are the best bird feeders to buy?

Bird feeders attract a wide variety of wild garden birds, but different types of feeders and feed will attract different bird species. We’ve listed the main types of bird feeders available and included the best bird feeders of each style that you can buy today.

Hopper feeders

Designed like a small hanging house, this feeder helps to protect seeds against weather and bird droppings. It’s the hardest feeder to clean, but it’s popular with most wild birds including finches and sparrows.

Tray feeders

Designed as a flat-platform tray or bird table, these attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds, including sparrows, pigeons, and starlings. As it doesn’t have any protection from the elements, the ideal tray feeder will have drainage holes and should be hosed down regularly to clean. You can get elevated or ground level ones, which will benefit other bird species like robins and wrens.

Tube seed feeders

This tubular feeder is hollow to allow for the seed to be contained with an entry point for feeding. It’s great for attracting many different species from small robins, sparrows, and blue tits to larger birds like woodpeckers.

Nut and nibble feeder

Similar to the tube feeder but without the feeding point, this feeder is made of steel mesh for wild birds to pick the feed through. The mesh size should be about 6mm to prevent beak damage and larger pieces of nut from being removed. It’s a popular choice with tits, nuthatches, and other species of bird that cling as they’ll need to grip hold of the mesh to feed.

Suet feeders

This feeder is made from wide metal mesh, available in both cube and tubular shapes to house suet balls, fat balls, and suet cakes. This type of feed is most popular with tits, wrens, and starlings.

Nectar feeders

This type of feeder is very bird-specific. Designed as a hanging dish with nectar at the bottom, it’s a great option for attracting hummingbirds.

Nyjer seed feeders

This feeder is designed like a tube or nut and nibble feeder but with smaller feeding ports and finer mesh as this seed is smaller than other bird food. It’s a perfect pick for finches and sparrows.

Window feeders

Great if you don’t have a garden and want to welcome birds by your house, these are feeders that you can affix to your window with suction cups or alike, or trays that can be hooked to your window frame. They’ll attract finches and sparrows and give you a lovely close-up view.

Bird feeder FAQs

What type of feeder attracts the most birds?

The best feeders for attracting the most birds are hopper feeders, tray feeders, and tube feeders.

If you’re trying to attract the widest variety of birds, it would be best to opt for a couple of different bird feeders or set up a bird feeding station to hang a number of feeders together. As different feeders suit different birds, that'll help maximise the bird variety visiting your outdoor space.

Best place to put a bird feeder

It's lovely to position your bird feeding station in view of a window, but be sure not to place it too near the house as this could put the birds off.

If you'd like to entice birds closer, try hanging a couple of separate bird feeders above your window to test it out, but make sure to still provide other options for shyer bird species.

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It’s also worth considering how close your feeder is to trees or hedges - birds like to queue up for their buffet somewhere they feel safe and can rest their wings. Positioning it nearer some hedges or a tree may encourage them to come and investigate, but too close and squirrels will certainly try to take it as their own. Kitting your feeders with a squirrel baffle should help prevent this.

If you have a window feeder and your birds need a little encouragement, start your feeder further out, and then slowly move it a little closer to the house until you can affix it.

Robin on suet bird feeder
©Getty Images

When to feed birds?

According to the RSPB, Winter and early spring are the most important time to feed birds, as this is when their natural food is scarce. You should put out food and water on a regular basis and in severe weather, you should feed twice daily if you can, in the morning and early afternoon.

Birds will most likely search for their own food in the warmer months, but you should keep your feeder replenished as this may help wild birds to raise their chicks more successfully.

What to feed birds?

The best feed for wild birds is very dependent on the time of year.

The RSPB recommends high-energy and high-fat foods in the colder months as wild birds need the energy to keep them warm. Bill Oddie from Springwatch recommends suet as great food for the cold winter weather, and peanuts and fat balls will help keep them full too.

However, these aren’t suitable for the warmer months.

In the summer, the best food options include black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds, and good seed mixtures but without loose peanuts, as this can be harmful to nestlings.

How to take care of your bird feeder

Michaela Strachan from Autumnwatch and Springwatch has some wise words for bird lovers wanting to take the best care of their bird visitors and feeders.

"I remember years ago, we did a piece about cleaning your bird feeders. And even Chris Packham was quite surprised how regularly you should clean them. Because the thing is, if one bird is ill and comes to your feeder, it will pass it onto all the other birds who come to your feeder.

"So you do have to clean your bird feeders regularly. It's not just about washing our hands anymore, you’ve got to wash your bird feeders!"

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Eleanor Weaver is a Commercial Content Writer for titles such as Yours, What’s The Best, and Mother&Baby.

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