As we enter the colder months, well-stocked bird feeders help to supplement birds’ food when it’s in short supply. High-fat foods and water are in need during this time so adding a bird feeder to your garden can vastly increase the number of birds you will see.
If you’re regularly topping up the bird feeder, the same birds will continue to return as they learn your garden is a good source of food. Specialist bird cakes, seeds and the likes of mealworms and flaked maize are all good options and supplying a variety of foods is a good way of attracting a range of bird species to your garden.
But bird feeders are not only important for the winter. In the warmer months, birds will have new chicks and a consistent food supply will help ensure they’re raised successfully.
There’s a wide range of bird feeders on the market in a host of different styles and designs. Some offer additional features such as squirrel proofing and have a larger cage around the central feeder to stop them reaching the bird food. This can prevent larger birds eating the food, too.
Other garden bird feeders can be attached to windows to allow you to get closer to the birds; a great way to start teaching children about nature around our homes.
How to choose a bird feeder
Choosing a bird feeder largely depends on two elements; what birds you are looking to attract and the size and layout of your garden.
There are four main types of garden feeders you can buy.
- Seed feeders: A hanging seed feeder can attract a range of small birds including sparrows, tits and finches. These can come in a variety of sizes and are typically made of plastic or metal.
- Ground feeders: A ground level feeder can be the preferred choice for birds such as blackbirds and wrens. Not ideal for a small garden as the table needs to be kept away from shrubbery where cats may be lurking.
- Nut feeders: Known to attract tits and woodpeckers, nut feeders are made from metal mesh. This mesh needs to be a specific size (approximately 6mm) to be safe. If it is too small, it can damage birds’ beaks but it needs to be small enough to stop birds removing large peanut chunks.
- Suet feeders: Popular with tits and starlings, suet feeders are made from wide metal mesh to give the birds purchase while they eat. Available in a range of sizes, the feeders will hold either suit cakes or balls.
Where to put a bird feeder
Keeping away predators will be your main consideration when hanging your feeder in the garden. Bird feeders need to be kept out of reach from squirrels and cats for birds to feel safe.
Aim for a quiet and sheltered area and away from any tree, fence or shrub that could be used as a jumping point for either animal. At eye level, or a little above, is best.
Grey squirrels are not only known for eating the food, but can also damage feeders by chewing through the plastic. Some feeders now claim to be squirrel proof as they are either covered in a metal casing the animals cannot chew through or surrounded by a large cage, which is placed around the central feeder.
Are you a keen wildlife gardener? Why not take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on Friday 28th to Sunday 30th January 2022?
Sadly, birdlife in the UK is struggling and according to the RSPB, our bird population has declined by a staggering 38 million over the last 50 years.
The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, is now in its 43rd year and a great way for wildlife enthusiasts to get involved as citizen scientists and keep an eye on visiting garden birds. Last year over a million people took part, which helped the RSPB create an accurate picture of how our feathered friends are getting on, as well as highlighting which species most need our help.
At this time of year birds are more likely to visit gardens in search of much-needed food and shelter, so by providing a selection of tasty treats, you’re not only doing your bit to sustain local bird life, but encouraging birds into your patch too. To make sure you’re ready for the weekend, check out our guides to the best nutritious feeds, best bird feeders, best bird tables and best bird baths.
How do I get involved with the Big Garden Birdwatch?
Fun for all the family, simply watch the birds in your garden or local green space for an hour at some point during the weekend, and count the species that land – not the ones that fly by. You then need to log your findings on the RSPB’s database. You can pre-register to take part, and if you can’t tell a sparrow from a starling, don’t worry, you can also sign up to receive a free guide to help you identify the different species.
Last year saw greenfinches move onto the UK Red List for at-risk species, for the first time. Thought to be affected by a disease called trichomonosis, the RSPB are keeping a close eye on chaffinches and house sparrows as it’s feared they might be susceptible to this disease, too. While this is concerning, you can help by regularly cleaning your bird feeders to reduce the spread of this parasite.
11 of the best bird feeders
Choosing a garden bird feeder that will last can be difficult so we have selected a range of hanging, squirrel proof and RSPB approved bird feeders for you to consider.
Browse our pick of the best bird feeders, below.
Roamwild Pest Off Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
To stop squirrels and large birds eating the food, the hatch automatically moves down blocking it off when they land on the perch. Once they leave, the perch returns to normal. The 1.5 litre feeder from Roamwild also has a built-in rain guard to prevent seeds clogging.
Gardman Heavy Duty Squirrel Proof Seed Bird Feeder
Covered in an antibacterial coating the feeder reduces the risk of spreading avian diseases — which can be transmitted at feeding sites. The cast cage of the feeder prevents large birds and squirrels eating the food and it holds up to 500g of seeds.
Nature’s Hangout Window Bird Feeder
Fitted with a removable tray, the feeder is quick and easy to clean. Made from transparent acrylic, suction cups secure it to the window allowing you to watch the birds close up from the comfort of your home.
Jacobi Jayne I love Robins Pearl Feeder
The dome shape of the I Love Robins feeder protects the food and birds from snow and rain. The height can be adjusted to dissuade larger birds and the feeding tray has draining holes to prevent the seeds from becoming waterlogged.
Ring Pull Large Bird Feeder
Able to hold 800g of seeds, this Ring-Pull bird feeder has six feeding ports so that multiple birds can perch at the same time. The base can be removed for easy cleaning and for a deep clean, a pin inside the feeder can be pulled to separate all the individual components.
Wildlife World Ceramic Bird Feeder
This small bird feeder comes in the sweet design of a ceramic robin. Suitable for seeds, nuts and mealworms, this Wildlife World feeder is frost resistant and is hung with a strong steel wire.
RSPB Suet Feeder and Guardian
The guardian on this suet feeder ensures that only small birds get to enjoy up to 10 suet balls. Measuring 30cm tall and 24cm wide, this feeder is small enough to find a place in any garden.
RSPB Easy-clean Seed Feeder
Made from a combination of durable zinc alloy and a polycarbonate tube, RSPB guarantee it will not crack or discolour in the sun. Available in three sizes, with the largest able to hold 1.5 litres of feed.
RSPB Ultimate Easy-clean Seed Feeder and Guardian
The guardian on this RSPB feeder is fitted by slipping it over the polycarbonate tube and screwing it into place. Complete with a seed tray to reduce the amount of food on the ground. The capacity is one litre.
RSPB Squirrel Buster Mini Seed Feeder
This feeder has an internal weight-activated mechanism that covers the ports whenever a squirrel arrives. The mesh design suits birds that cling or perch and the feeder comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Roamwild Arch Window Bird Feeder
With the ability to hold up to two litres of seed mix, this Roamwild feeder doesn’t need constant refilling. Multiple perches allow more than one bird to feed at once and suction cups keep the feeder secure to the window.
This Product Guide was last updated in January 2022 and we apologise if anything has changed in price or availability.