Experts share their favorite backyard bird feeders


Chad Witko, an outreach biologist in Vernon, Vt., has been a birder since he was 3. His father was a waterfowl hunter and would bring birds home for him to examine. His mother helped him put homemade feeders in the yard.

Nate Swick, a birding podcaster in Greensboro, NC, also loved birds as a child. His dad was a science teacher. “We were always out in nature and the outdoors,” he says.

Witko, who’s with the National Audubon Society, and Swick, who’s with the American Birding Association, were ahead of their time, it seems. Birdwatching boomed during the pandemic, with almost 9,000 new people joining the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s annual Global Big Day to appreciate birds in 2020, according to the Cornell team. If you’re interested in joining the growing ranks of ornithophiles, all you need is a feeder, seed and a guide to the birds in your area.

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“Choose the best bird feeder that you can afford,” Witko says. Look for one that’s watertight. And you want to keep squirrels from damaging the feeder, so look for something that isn’t breakable or chewable. “Solid wood, metal, hardened recycled plastic and even glass feeders are all excellent choices,” he adds. If you want to attract a variety of birds, use multiple types of feeders. We asked Witko and Swick to share some options for backyard bird feeders. Here are their picks.

Budding birders should start with a basic tube feeder, Witko says. He likes the Audubon wild bird plastic tube feeder ($18.99, “Hang it from a tree or shepherd’s crook,” he says, and fill it with black sunflower seeds, “one of the best types of bird seed you can get.”

Swick also recommends starting with a tube feeder filled with black sunflower seeds. He recommends the Droll Yankees ring pull tube feeder ($43.99, “Tubes with black, greasy, oily food will attract goldfinches and house finches,” he says. This tube is easy to clean by pulling the central rod. All feeders should be cleaned periodically — as frequently as every one to two weeks — Witko says. Take the feeders apart and wash them with soap and hot water. Let them air-dry before refilling them.

“I really like a tray feeder with a hopper feeder on top of it,” Witko says. “It’s really good for allowing larger birds a little space to sit around when they eat, such as jays and grosbeaks.” He likes Perky-Pet’s Squirrel-Be-Gone II wild bird feeder ($38.99,, which has weight-activated perches that drop squirrels. “You don’t want to buy birdseed and just end up feeding squirrels,” Witko says.

Witko also recommends suit cages, which are good for attracting nuthatches, woodpeckers and Carolina wrens. Wild Birds Unlimited’s modern rustic double suit feeder (check store location for price, allows for two suit cakes, and therefore more birds. Look for suit with seeds and mealworms inside, Witko says.

One way to get a really good look at birds is with a suction-cup window feeder, such as the Birds-I-View window bird feeder ($49.99, “In the right setting, they can be a great option for young kids,” Witko says.

Ground feeders, such as Duncraft’s Eco-Strong ground platform feeder ($59.95,, can attract sparrows, doves and other birds that are less likely to sit on a hopper or thistle feeder, Swick says. This model can hold up to two pounds of seed — he recommends millet — and has metal mesh for drainage to prevent mold growth caused by rain or snow.

And don’t forget about hummingbirds. These feeders require a little more maintenance, though, Witko says, because you need to make the nectar, then change the solution at least once a week (and more frequently if it’s particularly hot). To make the nectar, mix sugar and water in a 4-to-1 ratio, boil until the sugar dissolves, then refrigerate it. The Droll Yankees Happy Eight 2 hummingbird feeder ($29.99, has removable flowers and a brush for easy cleaning.

Lindsey M. Roberts is a freelance writer in North Carolina.

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