Bird Feeders for Wild Birds: Six Basic Kinds of Feeders

Bird Feeders for Wild Birds: Six Basic Kinds of Feeders

Are you ready to purchase some bird feeders to attract birds to your backyard? Find out about the differences between different bird feeders for wild birds to get a fast start to bird watching.

Six Basic Types of Bird Feeders

Wild Bird feeders in feeding station
Feeding Station by Polly Dot

I categorize feeders into only six basic kinds of backyard bird feeders for wild birds, and some of those are pretty specialized. Each of the types of feeders also have multiple options available. After all, the preferences of all backyard wild birds and armchair bird watchers are not the same. I categorize the basic versions of bird feeders for wild birds as follows:

  1. Hopper or Ranch Feeders
  2. Ground or Tray Feeders
  3. Tube Feeders
  4. Cage feeders
  5. Fruit Feeders
  6. Nectar (Hummingbird) Feeders

I can’t tell you everything you could ever want to know about the six kinds of bird feeders for wild birds in one blog. However, I’ll try to give you a reference guide with pertinent basic information.

1. Hopper or Ranch Wild Bird Feeders

Hopper Feeder with Cardinals by Lilliant Paepcke BYBFC group
Hopper Feeder by Lillian Paepcke

Ranch feeders are another name for hopper feeders because hopper feeders are sometimes designed to look like a barn or ranch house.

Hopper feeders have a seed compartment which allows seed to flow onto a feeding platform area for the birds. Most hopper feeders for wild birds allow for a number of birds at once. In addition, they accommodate larger birds, like mourning doves and blue jays, yet still attract smaller wild birds as well.

2. Tube Feeders for Wild Birds

Dual Tube Feeders with American Goldfinches by Sandi Gannon BYBWC group
Tube Feeders by Sandi Gannon

With a tube feeder, birds eat from portals with perches on the sides of the tube.

Sunflower seed chips are often used in tube feeders. I put a rain/squirrel guard over mine to give them more protection from rain and keep the squirrels at bay.

Tube feeders are very popular, but I find they are usually difficult to fill and, worse, very difficult to clean. I suggest you consider a tube feeder with a bottom which can be taken completely off.  That way you can avoid spoiled seed from getting stuck in the bottom of the tube and the feeder is easier to clean.

Ground or Tray Bird Feeders for Wild Birds

Let’s drop to the ground, where some birds search for their food in the wild. Doves and sparrows often feed on the ground, as well as many more birds who enjoying a ground feeder. Of course, a squirrel can’t ignore good food laid out on the ground either.

Ground Feeders

Bird Feeders for Wild Birds - My Ground Feeder
Ground Feeder by JoAnn Timberlake

The easiest (and cheapest) version of ground bird feeders for wild birds is to simply spread some bird seed on the ground in an open area. You want the birds to be able to see it from the air. The problem with this is, the seed is susceptible to molding from moisture.

Since you don’t want to make your backyard birds sick, it is a better idea to put the seed into a tray which holds the bird food off the ground. Generally, a ground bird feeder will have a screen or mesh across the bottom to let moisture drain through it from rain or sprinklers.

Tray Feeders

Backyard Wild Bird Watching - Tray Feeder
Tray Feeder

Elevated ground feeders are generally known as tray feeders. They can be put near the ground on short legs. Similarly, they can have longer legs called a table feeder, or be a large fly-through feeder.

Some smaller tray feeders can be hung on hooks or trees limbs, which is how I present mine. They are very versatile and can be a DIY project for someone handy with a hammer.

Cage/Suet Bird Feeders for Wild Birds

Suet Feeders

Bird Feeders for wild birds suet feeder with long tail
Suet Feeder by JoAnn Timberlake

Small square cages for suet cakes or wire tubes for suet balls are known as Suet Feeders.  The birds usually cling to the sides of the cage to eat, but some cage feeders also have a perch.  Suet Feeders designed for Wood Peckers will have a “tail” for the bird to lean against, much as he would a tree.

Suet is a high fat product, usually formed into a cake or ball, with seed or fruit mixed in with the fatty base.  Birds especially love it in the winter when they need extra fat content.

Picnic Feeders

Backyard Bird Blog picture of Bushtit on feeders
Cage Feeder by Scott Catron

Cage feeders also come in a larger size, which I call a picnic feeder.  I keep mixed wild bird cakes or dried mealworm cakes in my picnic feeders.

My wild birds love the picnic feeders, especially with the dried mealworms. As a matter of fact, dried mealworms are almost the favorite food for my birds.  Only live mealworms, of which I only offer once daily, surpass the dried mealworms.

For more information on mealworms, check out this blog by Scott, The 5 BEST Bluebird Feeders (& Mealworm).

Fruit Feeders for Wild Fruit Loving Birds

Oriole Fruit Feeders

Bird Feeders for Wild Birds - My Fruit Feeder
Oriole Fruit Feeder by JoAnn Timberlake

Similar to ground feeders, there is a cheap and easy DIY feeder for fruit. You can nail half an orange to a tree. Done.

However, purchased fruit bird feeders which are often called Oriole feeders, usually have a little more to them. A bar of some sort is provided to spike through half of an orange to hold it in place. There also may be a bowl for nectar and places for sliced apples or grape jelly.

Grape Jelly

Oriole Wild Bird Feeder
Grape Jelly by JoAnn Timberlake

I don’t know why, buy grape is the flavor of favor for birds.  Oriole feeders with grape jelly can also attract such birds as Mockingbirds, and even Hummingbirds that drink the liquid from the grape jelly.  I caught this photo of a hummer enjoying grape jelly.

Check out this Birds and Blooms blog by Ken Keffer, How to Feed Birds All Year Long, to learn more about fruit feeders.

Nectar or Hummingbird Feeders

Basics of Hummingbird Feeders

Small Bird Feeders - Hummingbird flying away from fancy feeder
Fancy 4 oz Feeder by JoAnn Timberlake

OK, now we get to the hummingbirds, finally. I love my hummingbirds and, hence, my hummingbird feeders.

Small Bird Feeder - Humming bird sipping from fancy feeder

Hummingbird feeders hold sugar water similar to the nectar they drink from flowers in the wild. Hence, the sugar water is referred to as nectar, and the feeders are nectar feeders.

Try to use red hummingbird feeders, but above all, avoid feeders with yellow on them. Yellow attracts yellow jackets & wasps.

Fancy Hummingbird Feeders

Small Bird Feeders and RV Travel - Fancy hummzinger hummingbird feeder - 12 ozSmall Bird Feeders and RV Travel - Fancy hummingbird feeder - 12 oz
Fancy 12 oz Feeder

I love this fancy little bird feeder.  Spread several of these cute fancy hummingbird feeders around the yard to attract more hummers.  Because the nectar is on the bottom they don’t leak or spill, which attracts unwanted bees and wasps.  Plus, it has a built in ant mote.  Also, the fancy flowers direct rain water away from the portals so the nectar isn’t diluted.

Some hummingbird feeders have perches. I have both feeders with perches and feeders without. I find my hummingbirds visit the ones with perches more often and stay longer at them. Therefore, I am of the opinion they like the perches.

Hand Held Hummingbird Feeders

hummer on hand 9-8-18 by Sandi Gannon
Hummer On Hand, by Sandi Gannon

Hummingbirds also sip from hand held & finger nectar feeders, although it may take some effort.  It requires some training to get the hummingbirds comfortable with the tiny feeders. Put the ring feeders close to  other nectar feeders so the hummers can get used to them.  They come with a cup or small pot attachment for this purpose.

Hummingbird Ring Feeder in pot
Hummingbird Ring Feeders on a Pot

Once the hummers are accustomed to the small feeders, you can hold the small feeders in your hand or finger. Of course, you must be very still as you wait for the tiny birds.

For your convenience, below are links to Amazon should you be interested in purchase any of these hummingbird feeders.

  • Aspects Little Fancy Rose HummZinger Feeders
    • 8 oz
    • Price: $19.9 (as of 09/24/2018 12:00 CDT – details)

  • Aspects HummZinger Fancy Hummingbird Feeders
    • 12 oz
    • Price: $29.99 (as of 09/24/2018 12:00 CDT – details)

  • ZUMMR Hummingbird Finger Feeder
    • 3 rings
    • Attachment for cups or small flower pots
    • Price: $22.99 (as of 09/24/2018 12:00 CDT – details)


Window feeder by JoAnn Timberlake
Window feeder by JoAnn Timberlake

You may want to start your backyard bird watching with one or two bird feeders for wild birds. If you are new to bird feeding and bird watching, get a minimal number of feeders to keep from getting overwhelmed. For instance, start with a bird feeder that attracts multiple type of birds, such as hopper, tube or tray feeder.

Also, look at the multiple options in each of the six types of bird feeders for wild birds. You may opt for the economic, minimal yet utilitarian version of a wild bird feeder. Or, you can choose more decorative, fun feeders. I like feeders which offer more than just feeding birds, such as:

custom tire peanut feeder with wood pecker by Sandi Gannon BBWC group
Custom Tire Feeder by Sandi Gannon
  • Custom and Artistic feeders which are ofter DIY.
  • Squirrel proof bird feeders which are specifically designed to deter squirrels.
  • All weather feeders are another such option, keeping the rain out and providing food in harsh winter weather.
  • Wire Mesh Feeders let birds cling to the outside as they feed.
  • Window bird feeders allow you to watch your birds feeding up close!

Good luck picking out your feeder(s) and enjoy the birds they will attract.


I hope you enjoyed Bird Feeders for Wild Birds about the 6 Basic Kinds of Bird Feeders. If you have questions or experiences you would like to share, please leave a comment.  I promise to respond to every comment timely!

If you would like to read more articles about Bird Watching Made Easy, click on the Index link.


Happy Bird Watching,


Author of Bird Watching Made Easy

Attracting More Birds > More Bird Watching!

Photo Credits:

  1. Feature Photo:  Hummingbird Finger Feeders on a Hat” by Sandi Gannon, Gannon Gallery, and member of FaceBook Group Backyard Bird Watching Crew
  2. Feeding Station” photo by Polly Dot, CC Pixaboy
  3. Hopper Feeder” with Cardinals, photo by Lilliant Paepcke, member of FaceBook Group Backyard Bird Watching Crew
  4. Tube Feeders” with American Goldfinches, photo by Sandi Gannon (see #1)
  5. Gound Feeder” photo by JoAnn Timberlake, author of Bird Watching Made Easy blog and FaceBook page, and founder of FaceBook group Backyard Bird Watching Crew
  6. Tray Feeder” photo CC Public Domain Pictures
  7. Suet Feeder” photo by JoAnn Timberlake (see #5)
  8. Cage Feeder” photo by Scott Catron CC Wikimedia
  9. Oriole Fruit Feeder” photo by JoAnn Timberlake (see #5)
  10. Grape Jelly” photo by JoAnn Timberlake (see #5)
  11. Fancy 4 0z Feeder” photo by JoAnn Timberlake (see #5)
  12. Fancy 12 oz Feeder” ad photo, HummZinger
  13. Hummer on Hand Feeder” photo by Sandi Gannon (see #1)
  14.  “Hummingbird Ring Feeders on a Pot” ad photo, ZUMMR
  15. Window Feeder” photo by JoAnn Timberlake (see #5)
  16. Custom Feeder”  photo by Sandi Gannon (see #1)

Facebook Posts

This message is only visible to admins:
Unable to display Facebook posts

Error: Error validating access token: The session has been invalidated because the user changed their password or Facebook has changed the session for security reasons.
Type: OAuthException
Code: 190
Subcode: 460
Click here to Troubleshoot.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.

Please follow and like us:

2 Replies to “Bird Feeders for Wild Birds: Six Basic Kinds of Feeders”

  1. Hey JoAnn! I really need to get a bird feeder and put it up outside the RV when camping, this post reminded me I’ve been wanting to do that. I’m thinking hummingbird feeder but haven’t decided yet lol

    1. Hey Lance,

      Good to hear from you again. I know you are an RVer, so I’ll keep that in mind with my recomendations. I have a FB friend who full time RVs and is a bird watcher. She says that she always gets birds quickly when she puts out her bird feeders at a new location!

      For hummingbirds, I would suggest a small 12oz feeder because you will have to store it when traveling. They are available 2″ tall (without the hanging rod) and 7″ diameter.

      Another bird feeder you can consider is a collapsible wire mesh feeder with a feeding tray There are a couple made by No/No.They attract song birds and collapse flat for storage.

      And one other suggestion is a tray feeder like in the article. They are generally only a couple of inces tall.

      Happy travels and birding!

      Attract More Birds > Enjoy More Bird Watching!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *