The ideal bird feeder is sturdy enough to withstand winter weather, tight enough to keep seeds dry, large enough that you don’t have to refill it constantly, and easy to assemble and keep clean. For these reasons, plastic or metal feeders work better than wooden ones. In general seed-feeders fall into three categories, tray feeders, hopper feeders, and tube feeders.
Tray feeders are typically placed close to the ground and often attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, sparrows, and towhees. Tray feeders also work well, however, when mounted on deck railings, stumps, or posts.
Hopper feeders are very common and are often hung from trees, decks, and poles. These feeders are especially good for larger arboreal species such as cardinals, jays, and grosbeaks.
Tube feeders are typically suspended from trees and posts. They are excellent for finches, titmice, and chickadees.
Tube feeders are easy to clean using a brush and warm soapy water with a little bleach (use one part bleach to nine parts water). Be sure to rinse thoroughly and allow to completely dry before refilling with seed.
Feeding stations sometimes cause unnatural concentrations of birds, and therefore increase the potential for disease. If you find birds are crowding each other to get to your tube feeders, consider adding several new ones, and space them at various heights and distances to allow more room. Be sure the feeders have no sharp edges on which the birds might injure themselves.
Place your feeder in an area free of disturbances where it is easy to see and convenient to refill. Your feeder should be close to natural shelters (cover) such as trees or shrubs. Evergreens are ideal, providing maximum cover from winter winds and predators. If trees and shrubs are too close, however, they can also provide good jumping-off places for squirrels that may be eyeing the seeds, and cats that may be eyeing the birds. A distance of about 10 feet seems to be a happy compromise. You can provide resting and escape cover for ground-dwelling birds, such as Song Sparrows, by placing large, loosely stacked brush piles near your feeders.