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9 best bird feeders to attract wild birds to your garden

Take an interest in nature and attract birds of every feather with these tried and tested models

Tamara Hinson
Tuesday 13 April 2021 12:38
<p>We hung these from hooks, handles and branches in a wide range of weather</p>

We hung these from hooks, handles and branches in a wide range of weather

More people are taking an interest in birdwatching than ever before, and when the RSPB launched their annual Big Garden Birdwatch in January 2021, one million people signed up – double the number of people who took part last year.

Keen to take up twitching and wondering how to find the best bird feeder? Start by thinking about what type of bird you want to attract – and which pests you’re keen to deter.

Our favourite features include trays beneath feeders to prevent seed scatter (a magnet for rats) and mechanisms designed to deter larger creatures, such as weight-activated partitions which cover feeder holes if a squirrel arrives on the scene.

Our top tip comes from Robert Jaques, Garden BirdWatch Supporter Development Officer at the British Trust for Ornithology. “Choose a model which will be easy to clean,” says Rob. “Diseases can be easily spread through garden feeders [so] wash your feeders at least once a week and let them dry before restocking with food.”

He’s also a firm believer that several small feeders are better than a single huge one. “Larger feeders can allow food to spoil, especially during wet weather. A few smaller feeders with a variety of foods will attract a range of birds while helping to keep them healthy.”

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So how did we test our feeders? We hung them from hooks, handles and branches in a wide range of weather conditions. We filled them, refilled them, washed them and restocked them, and looked at the ease with which they could be dismantled.

Ideally, the feeders would provide easy access to food, but only for the right type of bird – feeders which fell victim to pigeon or squirrel-related sabotage didn’t make the cut. The result? A new-found appreciation of birdlife and our brilliant guide to the best bird feeders for your garden.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Red Candy apple bird feeder

Who wouldn’t want a bright red apple dangling from their tree? This quirky feeder – complete with an incredibly realistic leaf-adorned stalk – is perfect for smaller birds, which can perch on the top or cling to the sides. There are no open areas (just a generously-sized feeding area enclosed by a wire grill) so it’s particularly suitable for anyone keen to prevent squirrels chowing down on their bird seed stash.

Its rugged, weatherproof design will stand up to the harshest of winters, and we loved the way we simply had to unscrew the apple’s “stalk” to open it. It’s also ideal if you’re keen to deter larger birds – our test garden is currently at the mercy of a supersized (and very greedy) wood pigeon, but this feeder made it easy for smaller birds such as greenfinches to sample our seed selection – albeit under the disapproving gaze of some angry-looking pigeons.

Crocus brushed aluminium bird feeding dome

We were dubious that this brushed-metal, UFO-like bird feeder would appeal to our local birdlife, but we were wrong – it was an instant hit with a number of the feathered friends which frequent our test garden. It’s perfect for small-to-medium species, which can access the seeds through a gap in the centre of the feeder, and its design accommodates perching birds as well as those which prefer to feed on the fly. We also liked the extra hook, which allowed us to dangle a second bird feeder from the base of the first one.

Squirrel buster mini seed feeder

Even the sneakiest of squirrels will be bamboozled by this ingenious squirrel-proof bird feeder. It eliminates the need for an exterior squirrel-proof cage by relying on a weight-activated internal mechanism which will cover the feeding holes should a squirrel arrive on the scene.  It’s easy to clean and refill, and the use of both wider, trapdoor-covered holes and upper sections of mesh means it will appeal not only to perching birds, but so-called clinging birds such as tits, wrens and sparrows.

Our top tip? Place it well away from other branches and items of garden furniture to minimise the risk of squirrels trying to bypass the weight mechanism by reaching out to the feeder from other surfaces.

Pidat bird silo feeder

This is the brainchild of two keen twitchers, Mika and Julie Tolvanen, so it’s hardly surprising that our feathered friends flocked (excuse the pun) to this stylish bird feeder. It works like a grain silo with seeds and nuts poured into the top, filling from the bottom up.

The separate layers don’t just mean more room for different types of seed, but a place for birds to perch while they’re chowing down. Our suggestion? Treat your garden to an upgrade in the style stakes by splashing out on two or three.

Pets At Home heavy duty seed wild bird feeder

This is a bird feeder for birds which love to perch – species such as sparrows, tits, finches and siskins. The four feeding ports provided easy access for our feathered friends, and the angled base ensures that all of the seeds could be eaten. We were somewhat concerned by the flimsiness of the metal handle, but it was more than up to the job – we slung it over a particularly exposed branch and it remained firmly in place, although a smaller loop means it can be hung from hooks, too.

Gothic arch window feeder

Is your garden home to a particularly discerning Dartford warbler, or an annoyingly choosy chaffinch? Then this is the bird feeder for you – a beautiful feeder with three separate trays and a cloister-inspired design with three arched windows. We loved the way the totally transparent design meant we could attach it to glass without creating an eyesore, as well as the use of incredibly tough suckers which were tested in wind, rain and snow. The three sizable compartments allow three types of bird seed to be served at once, and the tray pops easily out when it needs refilling or cleaning.

Eva Solo large bird feeding tray

For twitchers who wouldn’t be seen dead dangling a meshed wire monstrosity from their carefully-pruned trees or sticking anything less than a work of art to their bi-fold windows, we recommend this minimalist glass bird feeder from Eva Solo. The circular hole in the feeder doubles as a perch, and the glass isn’t only frost-proof, but dishwasher-proof too, which meant we could spend more time admiring our winged wonders and less time cleaning up after them. A thin strip of double-sided tape keeps this feeder in place. Suctions are so last year, after all.

Pets At Home heavy duty nyjer seed wild bird feeder

Nyjer seeds are tiny nutritious seeds which are especially popular with goldfinches, greenfinches and siskins, which use their sharp beaks to crack open the hard shells. The downside? Pigeons are fans too. That’s why it’s important to use a bird feeder designed specifically for nyjer seeds. For that reason, this one is ideal.

It has tiny slits through which birds can tease out the seeds, and shorter perches which not only had zero appeal to our portly pigeons, but minimised seed scatter onto the ground below. The feeder is also incredibly easy to clean – the top and the bottom pop off easily, and the angled base ensures all of the seeds are eaten.

RSPB dual suet feeder starter pack with fat balls & cakes

Fat and suet balls aren’t the most attractive bird foods, but the RSPB has at least done a brilliant job of reducing the “eww” factor by creating this pretty chalet-shaped wire cage to put them in. Simply undo the catches on the side of this fat ball bird feeder and insert the treats, then hang it from a branch or hook.

We were pleased to see extra-wide gaps in the metalwork – all too often feeders designed for this type of bird food make it tricky for birds to get to the balls, especially when they’ve worn down. Another reason to make a purchase? A pack of fat balls and suet cakes is included. Yummy...

The verdict: Bird feeders

Who wants a boring bird feeder? Not us, which is why we awarded top marks to Red Candy’s apple bird feeder, which was both stylish, squirrel-proof and easy to use.

Crocus’s brushed aluminium bird feeding dome was a stylish, innovative feeder which can be used in conjunction with other feeders (we dangled a second different type from ours to attract a wider range of species). While the RSPB’s squirrel buster mini seed feeder was one of the best squirrel-proof feeders we’ve come across.

Curl up and watch your garden’s wildlife in one of the best hanging egg chairs

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