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The Beginners Guide to Backyard Birding: How To Choose the Right Inexpensive Backyard Birdfeeders

A male Pine Warbler clings to a backyard suet feeder
Pine Warbler at Suet Feeder

**Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn a small commission. Read my full Affiliate Disclaimer here.

A purple fench and gold fenches eat black oil sunflower seeds from a tube feeder.
Black oil Sunflower Feeder

Have you ever wondered what birdfeeders are best for each type of birdseed? With all the different birdseed and feeders on the market today it’s easy to get confused.

In this blog post, we will narrow it down as simply as possible. We will look at each type of birdfeeder and the birdseed that works best in each one. Knowing these simple facts will make your backyard birding more enjoyable and less expensive.

For us, bird lovers, watching our favorite backyard birds flit from tree to feeder and back again, is one of the simple joys in life. However, just knowing which bird likes this food in that particular feeder, can be mind-boggling. Let’s put your mind at ease and simplify things for you right now.

We are going to look at the most common types of feeders and the birdseed most commonly used with them. There is a large variety of bird feeders available on the market, but how do you choose the right one for the birds you want to attract to your yard? Let's answer that question.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I don’t consider myself to be an expert. What has worked for me might not work for you. In fact, after moving to the country, I have learned my country birds have different habits and preferences than my city birds. So, it might take some trial and error before you find out what your backyard birds prefer. I will cover the four basic feeder types and have included a link for each one.

Hopper or “House” Feeder

Hopper feeders can be used to present birdseed or black oil sunflower seeds. They attract most feeder birds, including finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice.


  • Protects the seed from the weather

  • Holds enough seed to last a couple of days or longer

  • Birds are attracted to them

  • Protects against bird droppings


  • If the seed in the hopper gets wet, bacteria and fungus can grow, requiring you to clean it

  • Not easy to clean

Tube Feeders

My favorite. Tube feeders can be used for bird seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and thistle or Nyjer seeds. Tube feeders attract many small birds such as finches, goldfinch, pine siskin, chickadees, wrens, tufted titmouse, sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers, and warblers.


  • The tubes keep the seed mostly clean and dry

  • Can be used with a wide variety of seeds

  • Easy to clean

  • They allow “clinging” birds to feed in a natural position

  • Larger birds, like jays and grackles, don’t like them


One warning regarding tube feeders. Some tube feeders allow seeds to fall below the lowest openings. These seeds can't be reached by the birds and will spoil. Bacteria and mold will spread from these seeds upward and infect the seed the birds can reach. This increases the potential for disease. Not good! So, I recommend you make a point of removing all unused seeds every time you refill the feeder.

Links: I use all 3 of these tube feeders.

A Carolina Chickadee checks out the black oil sunflower seeds in a backyard tube feeder.
Chickadee on Tube Feeder

Tray or Platform feeder

Tray or platform feeders attract the widest variety of seed-eating birds. The best tray feeders have a screen, rather than a solid bottom to promote complete drainage. At the very least, tray feeders should have several drainage holes. For best results, offer only enough seed in the tray for birds to finish every day or two, and always shake out the bottom every time you add new seeds.

Tray feeders are likely to attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves, blackbirds, finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice.


  • The simple design allows for birds of any size and bill shape, unlike other bird feeders

  • Platform/tray feeders hold any kind of food, including birdseed, fruit, peanuts, mealworms, and any other item you can think of

  • Easy to maintain and clean up

  • Easy to make.


  • Tray feeders offer no protection against the weather

  • Without drainage, seeds will get wet, and that will allow fungal and bacterial growth

  • Bird droppings can quickly soil the seed in tray feeders

  • Must be cleaned frequently

Suet Feeders

The great thing about suet is that you don’t have to have a feeder for it. Suet can be mashed into a tree's bark, placed in a tray feeder, or any other way you can think of. The most common method though is in a suet cage. I get the best results with suet during the winter months. Suet attracts a variety of woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, warblers, finches, and sparrows.


  • Easy to use

  • Less waste

  • Low maintenance

  • Very inexpensive


  • Suet can quickly go bad in warm weather

Here are the links to the seasonal birdfeeders I use.

Over the years, I’ve learned an array of feeders and bird seed equals a more diverse bird population. Think of it as a buffet for birds!

A male northern cardinal feeds at a backyard platform feeder.
Cardinal at Platform feeder

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Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view.


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