Which Feeders Attract Which Birds?

Last Updated on October 19, 2020 by Nancie

Carolina Wren on Platform Feeder
Carolina Wren

To choose a bird feeder, go by the feeder type preferred by birds you want to attract. Here are the birds that use each type of feeder in my Maryland Yard.

Note: Bird Feeder links in this post go to my review of that feeder where you can learn more detailed information about the feeder including pros and cons.

Juvenile Baltimore Oriole on a Platform Feeder
Juvenile Baltimore Oriole on a Platform Feeder

Platform Feeder Birds

Feeders: I use two types of platform feeders in my yard: two covered Birds Choice Fly-Through Platform Feeders, each mounted on top of a pole and two Birds Choice Hanging Platform Feeders, each on an arm of a pole. This type of feeder appeals to a wide range of birds and can work with a wide range of seeds and other foods.

Seed: I fill these with safflower seed plus a daily handful of peanuts in the shell.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen in platform feeders in my yard:

  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jays
  • House Finch
  • Purple Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • House Sparrow
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Warbler
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker (dangle off the side)
  • Downy Woodpecker (dangle off the side)
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Blue Grosbeak

Platform Feeder Notes: I also briefly had Northern Mockingbirds in my platform feeders when I put dried mealworms in them. I think crows would also use them if they could more easily get into them. The platform feeders I use are either built with a roof or have a baffle or weather dome over them. This makes it more awkward, although probably not impossible, for a crow to get into them.

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak on a Small Hopper Feeder
Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak on a Small Hopper Feeder

Small Hopper Feeder Birds

Feeder: I currently use one Birds Choice hopper feeder. I purposely bought a small hopper because I wanted a feeder that Northern Cardinals might like but that has a tray smaller than a Mourning Dove might find comfortable. (Mourning Doves tend to fill up my platform feeders at times, leaving the cardinals off to the side.)

Seed: I normally fill this feeder with safflower.

Which Birds Use This Feeders: These are the birds I see on this small hopper feeder in my yard.

  • Northern Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • European Starlings

Small Hopper Feeder Notes: Because the particular hopper feeder I’m using is small and I fill it with safflower, the variety of birds on this feeder is limited. So take this list as a starting point. If you are using a larger hopper and/or instead fill it with sunflower, the list would probably be fairly similar to platform feeder birds. I do still occasionally see a Mourning Dove even on this small feeder. I think woodpeckers would use it if it had sunflower in it.

American Goldfinches on a Squirrel-Buster Classic Feeder
American Goldfinches on a Tube Feeder

Large Open Tube Feeder Birds

Feeders: I use three types of open tube feeders in my yard: two Squirrel Buster Plus feeders, a Squirrel Buster Classic Feeder and a Stokes Select Combo Feeder.

Seed: I fill the Squirrel Buster feeders with sunflower hearts/chips most of the year but usually switch over to safflower in the spring when the “blackbird” flocks arrive. The Stokes feeder is always filled with safflower.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen on the open tube feeders in my yard:

Squirrel Buster Feeders

  • Blue Jay
  • House Finch
  • Purple Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • House Sparrow
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Warbler
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker (dangle off the perch)
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Red-Winged Blackbird

Stokes Select Feeder

  • Northern Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • House Sparrow
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle
  • Red-Winged Blackbird

Open Tube Feeder Notes: The birds you get on a tube feeder might vary depending on the length of the perches. Some larger birds find it easier to sit on longer perches, although a really determined bird can often find a way to use a short perch if they are hungry enough. Tube feeders can also come in different sizes. Larger birds may have a harder time using a very small tube feeder.

Goldfinches on a Nyjer Feeder
Goldfinches on a Nyjer Feeder

Nyjer Tube Feeder Birds

Feeders: I use four Aspects Nyjer Tube Feeders in my yard.

Seed: Nyjer tube feeders have tiny little slits to allow birds with the right kind of beak to get access to the slim nyjer seed.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen on the nyjer feeders in my yard.

  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • Purple Finch
  • Pine Siskin

Nyjer Feeder Notes: While these smaller birds with specialized bills use the nyjer feeders themselves, in the winter the ground under these feeders is often filled with Mourning Doves and various sparrows eating dropped seed. I recently saw a White-Throated Nuthatch getting seed from a nyjer feed which was a first and not usual in my yard.

Finches on Woodlink & Nuttery Globe Feeders
House Finches and a Goldfinch on Tube Feeders

Caged Tube Feeder Birds

Feeders: To keep larger birds from dominating all the feeders, I have five caged tube feeders. Four are Woodlink Tube Feeders and one is a Nuttery Globe Feeder.

Seed: I fill these feeders with sunflower hearts/chips.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen on the caged tube feeders in my yard:

  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Warbler
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker (dangle off the side)
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Baltimore Oriole (once)

Caged Tube Feeder Notes: It took several years for the woodpeckers to start using/figure out how to use the Woodlink feeders. The Downys can fit inside these particular caged tube feeders. The Red-Bellies cannot, but their beaks are long enough that they can dangle on the side and reach into the feeder port. For probably obvious reasons, the woodpeckers do prefer the open regular tube feeders over the caged feeders.

American Bluebird in a Bluebird Feeder
American Bluebird in a Bluebird Feeder

Caged Bluebird Feeder Birds

Feeder: I’ve modified my caged Erva Starling-Proof Bluebird Feeder to hold a larger bowl inside.

Food: I fill the bluebird feeder with dried mealworms and peanut splits, which I realize is an unusual combination.

Which Birds Use This Feeder: These are the birds I’ve seen in the caged bluebird feeder in my yard:

  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Carolina Wren
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Gray Catbird

Bluebird Feeder Notes: If you put a different type of food in this feeder, you would get a different mix of birds. For example, many of the birds listed under Caged Tube Feeders might visit this feeder if you put sunflower hearts in the feeder bowl. I tried putting suet in the bowl, thinking that it would give bluebirds a shot at some suet but they really didn’t seem interested, even though I’ve seen them pick bits of suet off the ground.

Downy Woodpecker on an Upside-Down Suet Feeder
Downy Woodpecker on an Upside-Down Suet Feeder

Suet Feeder Birds

Feeders: I currently use two types of suet feeders: four Birds Choice Upside-Down Suet Feeders and one Erva Starling-Proof Suet Feeder. Both types of suet feeder I use are designed to make it harder for European Starlings and Common Grackles to dominate the suet.

Suet: The suet feeders are filled with commercial suet blocks, usually the type with additions like peanuts or insects, but sometimes with pure suet in cold weather.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen on the suet feeders in my yard:

Upside-Down Suet Feeders

  • Blue Jay
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Warbler
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Gray Catbird (ground underneath)
  • Eastern Bluebird (ground underneath)

Caged Suet Feeder

  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Carolina Wren
  • Carolina Chickadees
  • Tufted Titmouse

Suet Feeder Notes: Hairy Woodpeckers and Pileated Woodpeckers can also use open suet feeders but they are not birds I see in my suburban yard. One blog reader wrote me to share that she even got a Raven on an open suet feeder! I’ve used the upside-down feeders for years but have only had the caged suet feeder for a few warm weather months. I’ll update the list for that feeder as the colder months bring other potential birds to that feeder.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Feeder
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Feeder

Hummingbird Feeder Birds

Feeders: I have used two types of hummingbird feeder in my yard: Aspects Hummzinger Hummingbird Feeders and a Perky Pet Mason Jar Hummingbird Feeder.

Food: A homemade mix of sugar-water goes into each of these feeders.

Which Birds Use These Feeders: These are the birds I’ve seen on hummingbird feeders in my Maryland yard:

  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Hummingbird Feeder Notes: In Maryland, there is commonly only one type of hummingbird. Hummingbird feeders in other parts of the country might attract other hummingbirds. I’ve heard that Baltimore Orioles will sometimes be attracted to hummingbird feeders but I have not seen that in my yard. But I don’t commonly see orioles in my suburban yard either.)

Fox Sparrow and Dark-Eyed Junco
Fox Sparrow and Dark-Eyed Junco Eating on the Ground

Seed on the Ground Birds

Ground: Whether you deliberately sprinkle seed on the ground or it is spilled from an overhead feeder, you are probably going to have birds eating seed on the ground as well. Some birds prefer to eat on the ground. Others prefer eating higher up but will eat on the ground if that is where the food is to be found.

Seed: Seed spilled from my feeders include safflower, sunflower hearts/chips and nyjer. In the winter I also sprinkle some white proso millet and/or nyjer on the ground for the sparrows.

Which Birds Eat on the Ground: These are the birds I’ve seen eating on the ground in my yard:

  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • House Finch
  • Purple Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • White-Throated Sparrow
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • White-Crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-Eyed Junco
  • House Sparrow
  • Pine Warbler
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackles
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • American Crow
  • Fish Crow
  • American Robin
  • Eastern Towhee

Ground Feeding Notes: Most of the sparrows strongly prefer eating off the ground although some sparrows, particularly House Sparrows, are willing to eat from feeders. Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves are also particularly comfortable eating off the ground. I only see Eastern Towhees on the ground around my feeders when a storm has completely covered the ground with a thick coat of snow.

Sunflower Seed
Sunflower Seed

What Else Matters Besides Feeders?

Seed Choice is Also Important

Choosing the right feeder for the birds you want to attract is only part of the formula for getting birds on your feeders. You need to choose the right see for those birds as well. See How to Choose Birdseed to help decide which seed to try in your feeders. You might also want to checkout Feeder Watch’s Food & Feeder Preferences interactive bird guide. There you can choose a food type and/or feeder type and/or winter region of the US to see what birds that combination might attract.

One Feeder or Many Feeders?

The number of feeders you offer can make a difference too. If you have a lot of feeders, birds have more opportunity to spread out and may show a preference to particular feeders. For example: I know that many people regularly get Northern Cardinals on various tube feeders, but in my yard they strongly prefer the platform feeders and will only use the very large Stokes Combo tube feeder. I think this is because I have so many feeders in my yard that they can choose. That said, while birds might strongly prefer a particular type of feeder, they may still use another type of feeder if that is the only choice and it is something they can physically manage.

Where You Live Matters Too

My home is on a wooded suburban lot in central Maryland. If you live in a different region, there are some birds that I see that might not visit your area. And you might see birds that I never see. The mix of birds in your area might also be related to the geography of the area. Do you live near the beach? Near water? In the mountains? In an urban area or a rural area? If you are unsure of the birds that you can expect in your area, check field guides or online bird sites like eBird.

Which Feeders Attract Which Birds in Your Yard?

You may have a different mix of birds in your yard. Or you might be using different bird feeders or different seed in your feeders. Which feeders attract which birds in your yard? Comments and questions are (as always) welcome below.

Nancie

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