Best Bird Feeder of 2021
Tube feeders excel at keeping seeds protected and dry, and the Brome Squirrel Buster is no exception. Its feeding ports are tucked beneath the outer metal sleeve, protecting seeds from rainstorms. That's important because they can quickly grow dangerous bacteria and fungus when wet. As its name suggests, the feeder is also meant to deflect squirrel attacks. The plastic seed holder is suspended inside the outer metal sleeve, which is held in place by an adjustable spring. If a squirrel jumps on the feeder, its weight stretches the spring, pulling the outer sleeve over the seed ports. It's slick and seemed to work well. Most importantly, the birds approve. Between its convenient perches with a platform for seed cracking and mesh grid for clinging birds, this feeder has one of the best scores in our bird preference tests. It's best suited for smaller birds like chickadees, titmice, finches, and siskins.
To truly squirrel-proof this feeder, you need to be sure the squirrels can't knock it down. If they do—and they did once during our test period—they'll get a snack and some unfortunate positive reinforcement. This feeder also is on the small side, with only 1.3 pounds of seed capacity. Frequent refillings kept the seed fresh and the local birds healthy, though, so we don't mind much. Some might see this as a positive aspect. Experts recommend washing feeders with soap and water every two weeks to avoid breeding bacteria or fungus or spreading disease. This feeder isn't the easiest to scrub out, but there aren't any crannies that you just can't reach. Since this Squirrel Buster is popular among a range of birds, does an impressive job of keeping seeds dry, and is protected by a sturdy metal frame, it's an excellent choice for any backyard.
Platform feeders appeal to the widest array of seed-eating birds according to the Cornell Lab, and the Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder made us believers. This feeder is one of our favorites to watch, sparking multi-species bird interactions more than any of the rest. Larger birds like blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, and even ground-feeders like doves and pigeons can access it alongside your chickadee, tufted titmice, and goldfinch regulars. The platform keeps the birds safe from predators, and its metal screen floor helps separate droppings from seeds more than they would be on the ground. It's incredibly easy to use. Just pour seed in and give it a quick scrub down every two weeks. The tray can accommodate any type of seed, nut, or fruit you'd like to feed your birds. Since it's easy for the birds to see what you're offering, they often seemed to adapt to new foods faster using the platform than the other feeder styles.
We absolutely love this platform feeder, but it's not without flaws. The seeds are much more exposed to droppings than they are in tube feeders, and there is no protection at all from the elements. If it's raining or snowing, the seed will get wet. Despite this feeder's large capacity, it's best to only add in what you think your flock will eat in a day. It also collects detritus like leaves and sticks, requiring more attention. We think the elevated bird-watching experience is worth the extra effort, though, and for a recycled product made in the USA, the price is hard to beat.
Built to dispense thistle seeds, the Perky-Pet Shorty Finch is beloved by its target audience of clinging and perching birds with small beaks, largely finches and sparrows. Since local thistle seeds threaten to sprout and invade your yard, our thistle feeders actually dispensed nyjer seed, a similar-sized, daisy-like plant from Africa that's rich in fats and oils. It attracts American goldfinches, juncos, siskins, indigo buntings, and redpolls. The birds either cling to the mesh or perch on the bottom rim to pull the seed through with their beak, making for a fun and fluttery bird-watching experience. The feeder itself is metal, with powder-coated metal mesh. Though it feels solid, it's lightweight and therefore may not last long enough to become an heirloom tool. The bottom of the feeder extends upward into a cone shape, effectively shedding every bit of seed to resist spoiling. The lid extends outwards to protect the seed from rain, and the lower platform has drain holes to keep the seeds from sitting in water. The whole thing unscrews easily for cleaning.
On the downside, a heavy rain will still get your seed wet, especially it's windy. This is typical for feeders. Another thing to note is that this is a very targeted feeder, so it won't call in the widest array of species. The ones that come, though, will be very grateful. Seed tends to fall out as you fill the feeder, and on one occasion, a fair amount blew away in a strong wind. The hanging ring could also be improved upon. Since it isn't rigid, you have to hold it up while hanging the feeder, limiting how high you can secure it without a ladder. The ring also snapped at the joint during our relatively short test period, though it still works. This feeder makes watching finches feel like a sport, and it's very reasonably priced, which will help offset the higher cost of the nyjer seed itself.
For a higher-capacity feeder that will keep the birds happy and the squirrels sad, take a look at the Brome Squirrel Solution 200. An integrated ventilation system seems to work well to keep your seed drier longer, helping to keep bacterial and fungal colonies at bay, which is especially important for feeders that hold larger amounts of seed. The squirrel busting system works similarly to the smaller Brome option. The weight of a squirrel will drag the metal frame down while the internal plastic sleeve remains stationary, protecting the seeds. The frame's decorative leaves are strategically placed to block the feeding ports. Every potion of the outer feeder is metal, which prevents squirrels from chewing their way through it. The metal mesh has an added bonus — birds like perching on it as they wait in line for their chance at the seeds. Titmice, chickadees, and finches enjoyed this feeder.
However, this feeder is higher maintenance than most. We had to consult the manual to figure out which part went where during assembly. Pulling the outer cage and inner plastic tube apart to clean it out isn't challenging, but it takes more steps than the rest. Scrubbing bird droppings off the metal cage is not our favorite step in the process. None of it is arduous, just more so than the competition. If you need a feeder that will appeal to popular wild birds with a larger seed capacity and squirrel-stumping skills, we still found that the challenges were worth the benefits.
With eight ports, an ant moat, and no leak construction, the Juegoal 12-Ounce Hanging Hummingbird Feeder erects impressive barriers to block insect freeloaders while making it easy for birds to feed. Since the nectar hangs beneath the feeding ports, there is no positive pressure forcing sugar water droplets out on their own. This helps keep wasps away. While the moat is imperfect, and a few ants breached it during testing, it certainly helps. The entire feeder opens up when you unscrew the metal hanger, making it easy to fill and scrub down, which you should do regularly. The hummingbirds seemed to slightly prefer this feeder to the Perky-Pet Antique glass option we tested.
You do have to keep this feeder at least half full for the birds to be able to access the nectar, meaning you have to waste six ounces of every batch of nectar you make. According to the National Audubon Society, you should empty and wash your feeder twice a week in hot weather and once a week when it's cooler. Luckily, if you're making your nectar with granular sugar and water, as Audubon recommends, this won't cost you that much. Our other concern is that the plastic construction will break down over time, especially if it's constantly exposed to UV rays. To save money and keep it out of the landfill longer, consider setting it up in the shade. This affordable feeder attracts hummingbirds and is easy to maintain, which is, after all, the point.
While we weren't lucky enough to have our local bear pass through during testing, we'd be surprised if she or he could have put a dent in the Birds Choice Bear Proof feeder. To say that its solid steel construction is sturdy is an understatement. Even the thin bird perches feel immovable. Our bear friend could probably work the lid's metal pin loose accidentally, but it's not likely. Squirrels aren't going to be able to chew it up either. The metal lid extends out into a roof over the feeder, helping to keep the seed protected from rain as well. And removing a bolt lets you remove the bottom for better cleaning access. The local Blue Ridge birds like hanging out on the perches in our experience. It performed well in our bird preference tests.
Interestingly, during our daily bird-watching, we noticed that some birds knocked a lot of seed out of the feeder while searching for the perfect seed. This was true even of homogenous options like black-oil sunflower seeds. Since the simple perch and lack of platform don't provide many surfaces to help the birds crack the seeds, they seemed to be more particular about which one they grabbed. This wasted some seed. This feeder is also so heavy that you'll need to find a very sturdy place to hang it and a good strategy to keep the bears from destroying what it's attached to. Still, if you want to feed your birds and not your bears, this is an excellent solution.
The Droll Yankees Onyx Clever Clean combines the protective benefits of a tube feeder with the seed catching and perching options of a small platform. If you're feeding shelled seeds, like the ever-popular black-oil sunflowers, some birds appreciate hanging out on the lower platform to crack them open. Though the birds drained the Brome Squirrel Buster faster, this one wasn't far behind, attracting small to midsize birds like chickadees, nuthatches, finches, buntings, titmice, and cardinals. It has four ports with two at the very bottom, sloped to shed seed, leaving little behind to stagnate. The small platform also has drain holes to help the seed stay dry. Though the feeder is plastic, which could degrade over time, it is UV treated. The ports and lid are metal, making it harder for squirrels to chew through.
The best bit is right there in the name; this feeder is pretty easy to clean. The bottom twists out quickly, letting you shake out debris each time you fill it and making your bimonthly cleaning ritual a breeze. The top hinges up with a push button, so filling it is a cinch as well. Toss in the fact that this feeder is made in the USA, with known labor and environmental protection laws, and it's an easy purchase to feel good about. It doesn't have an awning to keep the rain off the platform, and the real only reason this feeder doesn't earn top billing is that it doesn't keep seeds quite as dry and well protected as the Brome Squirrel Buster, which the birds in our study area seemed to enjoy the most. But if you want a higher capacity feeder that's easy to clean, here you go.
The Perky-Pet Antique Hummingbird Feeder is a classic option. The metal hanger, green glass bottle, and metal upper-platform and flower feeders won't degrade in the sun. We expect this option to last you years. The lower portion is plastic, but it stays shaded and feels sturdy. The two halves come apart easily, making it a quick and simple proposition to scrub out the foundation every week or two. Four feeding ports provide room for a few birds at a time. They can be territorial, though, so you may want to buy two of these if you have many hummingbirds buzzing around your home. We like that gravity feeders like this one make it easy to see when you're running low on nectar and waste very little of it.
Since there is hydraulic pressure on the feeding ports, though, particularly when the bottle is full, the nectar is easier for insects like ants and wasps to access. The top of the feeder doesn't have a depression for water that would slow an ant army down, either. So you'll just have to keep an eye out for pests. While the lower portion of the feeder is easy to clean, you'll need a good bottle brush to take care of the glass portion. If you have any nectar leftover when you need to clean it, there's no way to open it without spilling sugar water everywhere. Make sure to do that part outside or over the sink. These good old-fashioned looks come with good old-fashioned problems. None of them are insurmountable if this feeder speaks to you.
Simple and inexpensive, the Twinkle Star Wild Feeder is easy to open and snugs back together readily. It's also a nice size. Holding just over two pounds of bird seed, it often lasts long enough that you don't have to replace the seed every day, but not long enough to stagnate. While it was one of the least popular feeders in the test, the birds used it readily enough. The smaller birds, like goldfinches, tend to perch on the edge, facing the clear plastic directly. Slightly larger birds, like tufted titmice, often stood sideways inside the platform to crack seeds at the feeder.
Unfortunately, having birds stand on the feeding platform also sets them up to add droppings to their food, which is an unhealthy situation. Since the platform doesn't have any drain holes, moisture from droppings, rain, or dew is more likely to build up, and harmful bacteria and fungus are more likely to grow. You may need to clean this feeder more frequently. Luckily it's easy enough to do so with the lid unscrewing and the wide plastic housing easy to access. Since this entire feeder is plastic, you should try to keep it out of direct sunlight to help it last longer. If you're in the market for an inexpensive feeder but need more seed protection than a platform can offer, this is a reasonable option.
An elegant option, the Perky-Pet Copper Panorama looks appealing, and its copper construction feels durable. The large lid helps protect the narrow seed trough from rain, and its wide mouth makes it easy to fill to the brim with bird seed. Since it will hold 2 lbs, you'll have enough to last a few days of even heavy feeding. A sure-lock cap is meant to hold the lid in place so squirrels can't easily access the feeder. Unfortunately, the lock on our model didn't work. The lid just hung in place with gravity. We didn't have a problem with squirrels during testing, but it may be something you want to check as soon as it arrives if you go this route.
While we like this feeder, the birds took longer to get used to it. They seemed to prefer the others throughout testing. While the circular perch and narrow feeding trough combination did wonders to keep droppings and seeds separate, it seemed awkward for some birds. The first few tufted titmice we saw trying to land on it grabbed the perching rung and promptly flipped over backward. Finches seemed to take to it more quickly, and we saw tufted titmice perfecting their landing later on. It's just trickier. Since we had so many other options available, the birds tended to pass on this feeder. If it's the only feeder you have, the birds will likely figure it out. We recommend this feeder for anyone who wants an affordable and seed-protecting option that will last.
Why You Should Trust Us
Lead tester Clark Tate hails from a bird-watching family and grew up observing birds playing in her great grandmother's birdbath (until a bear destroyed it five years ago, that is). From bear visitors to squirrel wars to aggressive deer, she and her family have navigated solutions to safely support local birds without letting the local mammals take over. Clark went on to earn a master's degree in environmental science and worked in restoration ecology for six years, often planning and planting important bird habitats. Along the way, she's studied and put into practice sound bird habitat projects.
To test these feeders, Clark set them out for four days loaded down with black-oil sunflower seeds. She weighed them at the start and end of every day to see how much seed disappeared from each one. She then repeated the process for another five days, this time rotating different types of seed through the feeders. In addition, she spent time every morning watching and photographing the birds to see how they interacted with each feeder.
Analysis and Test Results
Our tests and observations are supported by research and reports written by well-respected groups like The Cornell Lab and the National Audubon Society. Keep reading to see how conventional wisdom applies to these feeders.
Bird Variety and Friendliness
Platform feeders attract the widest variety of birds, according to The Cornell Lab. Our tests match. The Woodlink Going Green Platform was the only feeder we tested that attracted birds like blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers. At one point, we had a rose-breasted grosbeak, a house finch, a few goldfinches, and a blue jay in this platform feeder at one time. That is some gratifying bird watching. The Woodlink didn't come in first in our popularity tests, but those tests relied on weighing the feeder at the beginning and end of a day. Since birds don't knock as many seeds out of the platform and they leave some shells behind, it's not the best test for this type of feeder. Even with those handicaps, it performed well.
The Kaytee Nyjer Thistle Seed Feeder and Brome Squirrel Buster lost the most seed weight each day. Both accommodate perching and clinging birds thanks to their mesh sides and perching platforms. While the nyjer seed feeder attracts a very specific crowd, mostly pine siskins and goldfinches throughout our test period, the Brome Squirrel Buster accommodates all small to medium seed-eating birds. (We didn't see larger birds like jays or woodpeckers use either.) So if you want a tube feeder to serve the largest number of birds, the Brome is the way to go. If you'd like to supplement things for finches and other perching birds, add in the Kaytee thistle feeder.
The Brome Squirrel Solution 200 and Birds Choice Bear Proof are also popular with the birds. Both are classic tube-style feeders and suit birds like finches, grosbeaks, and tufted titmice. Though we didn't notice any woodpeckers or jays on either, the mesh on the Solution 200 would make it easier for larger birds to find purchase than the smooth steel of the Bear Proof option.
The birds steadily drained the Droll Yankees Onyx Clever Clean feeder during testing, though less rapidly. We noticed that more types of birds seemed to enjoy the Onyx Clever Clean than the Birds Choice Bear Proof, which mostly attracted finches and titmice.
Though we saw ruby-throated hummingbirds enjoying both the Juegoal hummingbird feeder and Perky-Pet Antique option, they found the Juegoal first. They also seemed to enjoy it more often, though our nectar measuring tests were inconclusive.
The reason the Woodlink Platform isn't the runaway winner is because it does very little to protect bird seed from the elements or the birds themselves. The seeds are exposed to rain, snow, and bird droppings, increasing the potential for dangerous molds, fungi, and bacteria to pile up or for diseases to transfer through the flock. If you want a platform feeder, you'll have to be more careful about how much seed you set out and how often you clean it.
In contrast, the Brome Squirrel Buster offers impressive seed protection. Its feeding ports tuck into the feeder itself, providing a protected platform for the birds to sort through and crack their seeds. It also keeps the bird's droppings out of their food. Brome also claims that warm, humid air can flow out of the top of the feeder, pulling cooler, drier air in through the bottom to keep seeds fresh. We didn't see any evidence to the contrary. The Brome Squirrel Solution 200 claims to employ a similar system. Though its lid doesn't extend outward to deflect rain, its ports do a good job of keeping the seed out of the rain. And, of course, both feeders are squirrel-proof — unless the squirrels knock them over.
Not to be outdone, the Birds Choice Bear Proof feeder protects seeds from bears and won't be destroyed by squirrels or raccoons. Its broad lid also keeps rain at bay for longer, though it doesn't help much on windy days. The Perky-Pet Nyjer Thistle feeder has a similar roof and drainage holes in its platform to let any rainwater drain out. The Copper Panorama feeder's large lid also helps keep seed dry, but its locking mechanism didn't work for us, leaving it vulnerable to squirrel attacks.
The Droll Yankees Onyx feeder has a metal lid and metal ports that will slow squirrels down but no awning to protect the seeds from rain. Its platform does have drain holes, though, unlike the Twinkle Star Wild Feeder.
The Juegoal hummingbird feeder sets a water trap for ants and avoids attracting wasps with its no-leak design. The Perky-Pet Antique option offers neither of these protections.
Ease of Cleaning and Filing
You should clean your feeder at least once every two weeks to limit disease or dangerous mold from spreading amongst your flying friends. If it's a hummingbird feeder, you'll need to scrub it (with soap and water) at least once a week, or twice if it's hot out. For frequent tasks like this, the easier, the better.
The Woodlink Platform takes the cake here. Just dump out any extra seeds or debris, scrub it down, and rinse. The Droll Yankees Clever Clean isn't far behind, though you will need a bottle brush or a long wooden spoon, a scrubber, and some skill. Just pop the bottom platform off, wash it, and then tackle the tube. The Perky-Pet thistle feeder is similar. You just have to unscrew the top and bottom to access the mesh tube. It's shorter than the Droll and easier to access without special brushes.
The Birds Choice Bear Proof is tall enough that even most bottle brushes don't reach far enough to scrub the center. Luckily, that's the portion of the feeder that should stay the cleanest. To access either end, you just need to remove the lid and unscrew the lower bolt. It's a bit more involved but very doable.
The Perky-Pet Copper Panorama and Twinkle Star feeders are shorter, with wider openings than the rest, making them easier to access with a sponge. The only tricky bit is getting enough leverage to clean the narrow openings where the seed emerges from the tube into the tray.
Both the Brome Squirrel Buster options require more disassembly before you clean them, particularly the larger Solution 200. While the smaller Buster's mesh is tightly and evenly spaced, making it easy to run over with a sponge, the Solution 200's widely spaced mesh and decorative leaves take longer to sanitize. We don't love cleaning these feeders, but it helps to know that the birds love them.
The Juegoal hummingbird feeder is painless to clean. You just have to unscrew the lid from the lower bowl to access every nook. The Perky-Pet Antique option is similar, except that you'll need a good bottle brush to clean the glass bottle properly.
Variety of Seeds
From chunky seed and nut mixes to dried or fresh fruits, you can offer your flock any number of delicacies with the Woodlink Going Green Platform, which is a big reason why it provides such stellar bird-watching opportunities.
In contrast, the Perky-Pet Thistle Feeder and the two hummingbird feeders only call for one type of feed. Still, it's hard to complain about watching a flock of goldfinches swirl around the thistle feeder or a hummingbird hovering to take a sip.
The rest of the feeders work best with the same types of seed, with black-oil sunflower seeds topping the list. Other mixes with smaller seeds and safflower seeds also work well. The Twinkle Star Wild and Perky-Pet Copper feeders need to stick to these restrictions since their seed openings are so small. We did find that tube feeders with larger openings like the Droll Yankees, Squirrel Solution 200, and Birds Choice Bear Proof can hold bulkier seed mixes that include peanuts or corn.
The Birds Choice Bear Proof feeder is the runaway durability winner. We can't find a weak point in this 9+ lb steel fortress. That obviously works well for bears, but it's a good investment in general. With no plastic parts to crack in the sun, this model is built for longevity.
The Woodlink Going Green Platform is another highly durable option. The edges of the platform are made of thick, recycled plastic that seems unlikely to crack through anytime soon. The bottom mesh is powder-coated metal that will resist rusting. What seems most durable about it, though, is its simplicity. There isn't much there to break.
The two Squirrel Buster options should both resist squirrel attacks. Brome claims that the plastic elements are UV stabilized, and the metal is chew and rustproof. The Droll Yankees feeder ports and lid are all metal to prevent squirrels from damaging them. The Perky-Pet Thistle feeder is made of powder-treated metal, which should hold up for a while. The top ring rusted and snapped during our testing period, though. It's still functional, but it may indicate a shorter lifespan for this feeder.
The Perky-Pet Copper feeder's metal elements should help it last longer than the all-plastic Twinkle Star option since a metal roof shades its plastic tube. We also expect the glass and metal Perky-Pet Antique hummingbird feeder to outlast Juegoal's plastic option.
Have your binoculars at the ready. With any luck, we've discovered the best bird feeder for your favorite avian guests. Now all you need to do is kick back with a good bird ID book and get to know your neighbors.
— Clark Tate