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Idaho Fish and Game's Wildlife Express (January 2005)

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Feeding Winter Birds - Naturalist's Notes

Choosing a Feeder - Lowe's

Make a Feeder


Method Modules

Choose from the following Method Modules.

Exploring the effect of black-billed magpie presence at bird feeders

Exploring the effect of feeder placement in attracting birds to a feeder

Exploring the effect of food choice at bird feeders

Other modules are in development























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Bird Feeder Types

You can make a bird feeder or buy one.  The type of bird feeder you use will determine which birds come to your yard to eat. Most feeders fall into one of three categories: tray feeders, hopper feeders, and tube feeders.

Tray or Platform Feeder
A tray or platform feeder is any flat, raised surface in which birdseed is spread. A disadvantage of the tray or platform feeder is that they do not offer protection against other seed eating creatures such as squirrels or from rain or snow.

House or Hopper Feeder

A hopper feeder is essentially a platform feeder with the addition of walls and a roof. Seed is usually gravity feed into the tray by hoppers. The hopper design protects seed from the rain or snow.

Tube Feeder

Tube feeders are hollow cylinders with multiple feeding ports and perches. The type of birds attracted to a tube feeder depend on the size of the perches under the feeding ports.

Scatter seeds directly on the ground

Types Of Bird Seed

Birds are like people.  Some like one kind of food and another may like something else.  Following is a list of bird foods that may attract birds to your feeder.

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seed (In most areas, black-oil sunflower seed attracts the greatest variety of birds.)

  • Striped Sunflower Seed

  • Packaged Wild Bird Seed

  • Cracked Corn

  • Peanuts (shelled for smaller birds)

  • Thistle Seed (also known as niger)

  • Suet

  • Oatmeal

  • Raisins

  • Bread Crumbs

  • Meat scraps

  • Apples and oranges (sliced)

  • Peanut butter

Experiment to see which birds like which foods.  For more information, check out the Cornell Lab's table of birds and their food preferences.

Feeder Location

The location of your bird feeder is very important.  Birds will feel more comfortable if the feeder is hung in an area that provides cover from aerial predators, but is far enough from bushes to keep cats from sneaking up on feeding birds.  Partially shaded or shaded areas are generally better than full sun because the temperatures will remain more moderate and the birds will be sheltered from winds.

The feeders should be placed to avoid noisy areas. Placing the feeders too close to large windows may also discourage birds from visiting if they can see people moving inside.

No Birds?

It may take a few days (or weeks) for birds to find your feeder, but if it is full of fresh food, they will come.  You can entice birds to come closer to your feeder by placing food on the ground nearby.  Be patient!

Some people believe that tying a small piece of aluminum foil on your feeder so it glints in the sun will help birds spot your feeder.

If birds still don't use your feeder, you may need to check your food.  If it is wet or moldy, clean your feeder and restock it with fresh food.  You can also supply water at your feed site as well as food.  Birds need water, too!

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