flock of sparrows sitting near wooden feeding trough outdoors
Last updated: June 20, 2020

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If you are a lover of birds, or are an amateur ornithologist, you will undoubtedly get a kick out of feeding wild birds. There is truly nothing better for this than a bird feeder. They allow you to get up close and personal with animals that tend to prefer you not know they are there.

Many birds are impressively intelligent and exhibit astonishing behaviours. Crows, and other corvids, for instance, have learned that vehicle tires can crack open nuts and shells for them. Sparrows understand how to trigger automatic doors at supermarkets so they can get in for a snack. We have come up with the following shopping guide to help you learn all there is to know about bird feeders and how to get the best one for you and your yard.

Key Facts

  • A bird feeder is one of the best things you can purchase if you are a bird lover.
  • In Canada, feeding wild birds is legal. You need to make sure you are getting appropriate food for them in order to attract them, and to make sure you are keeping your local fauna healthy.
  • There are a number of things to keep in mind when purchasing a bird feeder. You want ones that are simple to clean and that adequately support the animals’ weight when they come to feed.
  • The robustness and durability of the materials are also fundamental, in particular for outdoor models that are placed on a terrace, a window or in the garden.

The best bird feeders on the Canadian market

People all over Canada feed birds for a variety of reasons. Some people see it as doing a good deed during the colder months when food is more scarce. Others just like to watch native wild life do its thing. There are a wide range of feeders available on the Canadian market to choose from. Whether you are looking to feed wild birds, or want something for captive birds, there is something out there that will suit your needs. The below section contains five of the best bird feeders on the market, and present both great value for money, and unique features to consider.

Brome – 1057 Squirrel Buster Standard Wild Bird Feeder

Brome’s 1057 Squirrel Buster Standard Wild Bird Feeder is built to keep pesky squirrels away from bird food. Squirrels are one the main problems when it comes to bird feeders, and will stop at nothing to get to those delicious seeds. The weight-activated seed saver feature also makes sure the seed containers are open and accessible only when there is a bird at the feeder. This feeders is able to hold up to 1.3 pounds of bird seed at a time, so you get days worth of enjoyment out of each filling.

Measuring only 8 x 8 x 22 inches, this is easy to install and doesn’t take up much space in your backyard. When you purchase a Brome product you get the company’s lifetime care, unlimited customer service, and Brome’s “Bird News”, a free online show. Keep in mind that in order for a squirrel to trigger the closing mechanism, it must rest its weight on the feeder. If it can reach over without placing pressure on the feeder, it might still be able to steal seeds.

Perky Pet – No/No Red Cardinal Bird Feeder

Perky Pet’s No/No Red Cardinal Bird Feeder isn’t just great for the beautiful red cardinals that frequent the Eastern provinces, it is made for all manner of clinging and perching birds. This is a fantastic feeder because the large overhang means your avian visitors don’t feel overly exposed to predators above when feeding. The circular perch and comfortable mesh surface gives ample feeding room to a number of birds at the same time.

This feeder is capable of holding up to 2.5 pounds of seeds – ample quantity for weekly filling and feeding. The zinc finish means this feeder is not going to rust in rainy climates, so it’s built to last. Easy to both clean and fill, having this in your yard is sure to attract a wide variety of local birds all season. Make sure to always check your bird seed if it has sat for extended periods of time to ensure there is no harmful mold on it. After gently cleansing this feeder, allow it to air dry.

Aspects – HummZinger 12-Ounce Hanging Hummingbird Feeder

Aspects HummZinger 12-Ounce Hanging Hummingbird Feeder is specially designed for the tiniest birds of all – hummingbirds. The feeder is uniquely fitted with a nice high-view perch that lets these nervous little birds drink comfortably, giving them a vantage point from which to observe and monitor their surroundings. Importantly, you, the observer, also get a completely clear view of your little flying friends as they feed and demonstrate all kinds of interesting natural behaviours.

This feeder is made of highly durable polycarbonate, so it is built to stand the test of time. Four separate feeding ports let hummingbirds (which can be surprisingly aggressive with one another when it comes to feeding) eat at the same time. The bright red colour is visible from a distance and will start to immediately attract hummingbirds in your area. It also comes with a terrific ant-moat that prohibits the vast majority of crawling insects from entering the birds’ nectar.

Perky-Pet – Copper Panorama Bird Feeder

Another terrific product from Perky-Pet, the Copper Panorama Bird Feeder looks amazing in any yard, and does what any good bird feeder should do: it effectively attracts and feeds local birds. The 360 degree perch allows perching and clinging birds to feed from whatever angle is most comfortable for them. The copper finish on this feeder is elegant, durable, and makes a stylish addition to any yard, urban or rural. It has a hefty two-pound seed storage capacity, so you can fill it up and leave it for some time before having to refill again.

The feeder design fills the feeding tray with seeds and then closes itself once it senses the tray is full. This way you conserve seeds, avoid spillage, and avoid attracting any unwanted animals (like rodents, squirrels, and even bears). This feeder is also easy to clean. Simply apply a mild soap and water to it every few weeks and your birds will be happy and keep coming back. The feeder also features nice drainage holes that make sure water doesn’t pool. Birds don’t want to get soaked while they’re eating.

Nature’s Hangout – Window Bird Feeder

Nature’s Hangout has built a really fun and interesting window bird feeder that brings the bird feeding just a little bit closer. Watch your local birds feed, interact, and exhibit  wide range of fun natural behaviours right from behind your window. The suction cups fit easily to any suitable window surface around your home, and the see-through material gives you a front row seat to the action. The removable tray on this feeder is a nice feature because it makes cleaning and replacing food dead easy.

This bird feeder is great for anyone interested in birds, and those who want to see them in action. For those worried about the suction cups and the feeder potentially falling, Nature’s Hangout promises that this feeder will never fall. Not only that, if it does for some reason, you will get a full refund. The main tray also comes equipped with drain holes to minimize the amount of moisture, and to mitigate against mold and mildew buildup. A window bird feeder is a great option for those who want to be as close to their flying friends as possible.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about bird feeders

You don’t need a house in the woods in order to see and observe birds. All that is required is a window that overlooks a sufficiently open area with some trees or structures around it and you can attract local birds. A quality bird feeder is really the only necessity. In the below section we have answered some of the most common questions from buyers to alleviate any concerns you might have.

Little kid boy feeding birds in winter. Cute happy preschool child hanging colorful selfmade bird house on tree on frosty cold day. Preschooler in colorful wam clothes. Nature, empathy with animals.

The ideal bird feeder needs to be sturdy enough to resist through the winter months. (Source: Irina Schmidt: 87018591/ 123rf.com)

What are bird feeders exactly?

Bird feeders come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are meant to be placed either outside, or inside a cage or avium to feed birds. All feeders are filled with seeds, and many contain additional mechanisms that help met out and disburse food.

Feeders for wild birds are commonly found in many western countries, and are very popular throughout Canada. If you have an outdoor feeder, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of the birds you end up attracting.

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The life of a Canadian bird is tough. Outdoor cats, flying into windows, other predators, and disease. All of that while constantly searching for food.

How is the ideal bird feeder?

A good bird feeder needs to be robust enough to last through the winter. It also needs to feature some mechanism that keeps the seeds dry. Finally, it should be simple to assemble, install, and clean.

What types of bird feeders are available out there?

There are myriad feeder options out there for both captive and wild birds. The below table features a breakdown of some of the most common products on the Canadian market. The different types can be categorized based on where in your yard they should be placed, their size, shape, and design features:

Type of bird feeder Features
Hanging feeders Tray and/or platform feeders are the most typical and come with holes at the bottom that drain water. They are generally hung on posts, trees, walls and windows, and some have roofs for animals to cover themselves from rain and other nuisances.
Tube feeders As might seem obvious, these feeders are shaped like tubes and are made from a range of materials, coming in different capacities and sizes.
Wall feeders Their support is designed to anchor it to the wall and are commonly found in gardens, exterior terrace walls and balconies.
Feeder with suction cups These are made to be fixed to windows using suction.
Hopper feeder This feeder dispenses food as birds come to feed using a gravity drop. They are also called automatic feeders.
Suet feeder Birds, both captive and wild, love set and tallow. Suet feeders feature a vertical netting through which birds can peck about.

When should I place food in bird feeders for wild species?

The best time to put food out for birds is during periods of intense cold. This makes the most sense in most of the country from around the end of November until mid-March. It is generally not a good idea to feed wild birds during the spring and summer.

First of all, a number of bird species become highly insectivorous during this time. Secondly, if you feed birds during the summer, they are going to come in for the easy food, which may end up creating an unhealthy dependency on you. This is particularly a problem with young birds just learning to fend for themselves.

Bird tit feeding at backyard feeder hanging on tree

The hopper is a container that empties itself as the birds eat, operating by gravity drop. They are also called automatic feeders. (Source: Anna Koldunova: 84201592/ 123rf.com)

Where should I place my bird feeder?

Pet bird feeders and those for wild animals are quite different. One of the main overlaps, however, is that it is your job to ensure both types of animal are kept away from predators while they feed. Cats are a major problem in Canada, especially those that are allowed outside. Here are some feeder tips for bird lovers:

  • View: You want to be able to see the feeder well, so put it in plain view of a window, preferably in an open space.
  • Protected area: You should place is somewhere in an area that birds can take shelter in during violent weather. If you live in B.C. for instance, where rain is a constant, look for areas where birds can feed in your yard out of the rain.
  • Ease of use: Set your feeder up in a spot where you can easily access it to fill it. You shouldn’t need a ladder to get to it.
  • Attractive design: It is a good idea to get feeders that are brightly coloured so birds notice them easier. You can also put plants and flowers next to a feeder.
  • Appealing food: Each wild bird eats something different so get seeds that are suitable for the animals you are trying to attract and feed. Hummingbirds have unique dietary requirements and consume primarily nectar.
  • Birdbaths and perches: A great way to ensure you always have birds at your feeder is to make sure it includes perches and baths.
  • Food levels: Birds are stealthy, and many don’t like being observed at all. This means you might not even notice your seed levels dropping, so check in periodically to see if your feeder needs a top up.
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In certain parts of Canada (especially Western Canada), it is against local bylaws to have a bird feeder in your yard because it can attract bears. Always check to make sure you are allowed to have a feeder in your yard.

Why opt for a bird feeder with a roof?

It is generally not that important if your pet bird feeder features a roof. If you want to appeal to wild animals, however, you should have one. Birds want to feel protected from rain, as well as from other avian predators above. A roof will also feed food dry, and will let birds come to your feeder in the evening.

 white-crowned sparrow, zonotrichia leucophrys and chipping sparrow, spizella passerina, sharing a bird feeder

Feeders for wild birds are commonly found in many western countries, and are very popular in Canada. (Source: Sylvie Bouchard: 45840953/ 123rf.com)

What food should I use for wild birds?

During the winter months you should opt for foods that are high in calories and energy. Things like peanuts, and black seeds like sunflower seeds are high in fat. Tallow cakes and suet are also appreciated fat sources you can use 365 days a year. Below are some food suggestions:

  • Seed blend: Good ones come with ground corn, sunflower seeds and peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds: Don’t get anything roasted or salted
  • Dried fruits: Crushed almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and corn – unroasted and unsalted.
  • Seeds: Small seeds like millet, oats or thistle.
  • Fruits: You can use fresh or dried fruits.
  • Bread: Breads made with standard vegetable oil or vegetable oil mixed with seeds, berries or insects.

What kind of birds generally use bird feeders?

While the kind of birds you see depends on where you live and the time of year, you are likely to see house sparrows anywhere and all year. Birds might not flock to a feeder right away. They are cautious animals with keen senses and won’t approach unless they think it’s safe. Here is a list of the most common species that you may observe in your backyard in Canada:

  • Black-capped Chicakdee (Eastern Canada)
  • Mourning Dove (Eastern Canada)
  • Blue Jay (Eastern Canada)
  • Northern Cardinal (Eastern Canada)
  • Cedar Waxwing (Eastern Canada)
  • Dark-Eyed Junko (Eastern Canada)
  • House Sparrow (Western Canada)
  • European Starling (Western Canada)
  • Northwestern Crow (Western Canada)
  • American Robin (Western Canada)
  • Song Sparrow (Western Canada)
  • Northern Flicker (Western Canada)
  • Violet-green Swallow (Western Canada)

How should I clean my bird feeder?

You need to make sure your feeder is hygienic because birds are known to transmit diseases. You should give them a good wipe down with soapy water one or two times per month. It is suggested that you wait until the end of winter to tend to any open-air feeders. Below are some bird feeder cleaning tips:

  • Equipment: Always wear rubber gloves to avoid contact with any harmful pathogens and bacteria. Use a brush to remove dirt and caked-on faeces. An old toothbrush can be used for this.
  • Detachable parts: Disassemble your bird feeder as much as possible. This will let you get into every nook and cranny.
  • Exterior: The outside of the feeder should also be well cleaned. Wet grains, seeds, and faeces should all be removed before you clean.
  • Products: You can buy commercial products specially designed to clean bird feeders, or you can make your own solutions. 9 parts hot water to one part chlorine works, as does simple dishwashing detergent.
  • Rinsing and drying: After you’ve gotten rid of seeds, feathers, faeces, and dirt, rinse it down with water and make sure it has dried before filling with seeds again.

Do outdoor bird feeders require special care?

Keeping your bird feeder nice and clean is good for you, your birds, and the environment. If you got a lot of snow over the winter, you should clean your feeder during the thaw. Pathogens typically mix with food and water, and this can lead to disease outbreaks.

It is also necessary to clean bird feeders to reduce the risk of contamination via faeces and rotting food. This is why it is advised to thoroughly clean a feeder once per month or more. It should be based on how much bird traffic your feeder receives. Also make sure uneaten food is discarded.

Child feeding tit bird in winter park. Kids feed birds in snowy forest. Little girl with titmouse. Kids watch wild animals. Family Christmas vacation. Children play in snow. Outdoor and wildlife fun.

Don’t forget to take actions in order to avoid any risk of contamination by excrement or food scraps. (Source: famveldman: 90104950/ 123rf.com)

Shopping Criteria

There are so many feeders on the market that it can be a real challenge to get the one that is right for you. There are some important criteria to keep in mind in order to select the best one for your yard and needs. The below section lays out that criteria so you can make a smart purchase.

Captive or wild birds

The first decision to make is whether you are buying a bird feeder for captive or wild birds. This will affect the size and design of feeder you opt for. Something too big for a cage or, conversely, too small for outside is going to mean you wasted your money.

Location of the bird feeder

Different types of feeders require you place them in different locations. As previously noted, those designed for outdoor use and feeding wild birds might be hung, mounted on the wall, or fixed using suction cups. Always make sure your feeder is well out of reach of predators, especially introduced predators like domestic cats.

Henri MatisseFrench Painter

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

Ease of use

It should be easy to set up, disassemble, and clean your feeder. Bird feeders, most importantly, need to be attractive and comfortable for the birds. This is true whether you are feeding captive or wild birds.

A requisite feature of feeders is that they have adequate perching space where birds can land and feed comfortably. Always keep this in mind when making a purchase.

Project of small home for birds in wooden workshop

Buying bird feeders may seem easy, but the variety of models available makes it a true challenge. (Source: Jacek Nowak: 103192417/ 123rf.com)

Design

As you now know, there are myriad design options out there to choose from. Many models are ornamental and highly decorative, perfect for gardens and terraces. The comfort of the birds is the most important design feature, and will determine whether any birds actually show up or not. Outdoor feeders should be easy to access, and come with a roof for protection from the elements and predators.

Materials

What a feeder is made out of is another important aspect to consider. Outdoor feeders need to be made to stand up to the elements, especially in Canada. If you are going to use a wooden feeder, you are probably going to need to treat it to protect it from moisture. Quality is always better than affordability.

Martin Luther King, Jr.American Civil Rights Leader

“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”

Cleaning

This has already been touched on but we felt it merited revisiting. You need to get a feeder that is simple to clean. Models that can be taken apart are great. Look for cleaners that specify they are easy to clean – there are plenty of them on the market.

Summary

Having a bird feeder if you have a pet bird is a must. But if you want to attract wild birds to your yard in a way that you can actually observe and enjoy their behaviour, you are going to need a bird feeder as well. Large feeders with ample space and support are preferable. The best part about buying a bird feeder right now is that doing so online is so simple.

There are so many affordable, well-made, smartly-designed products out there to choose from. You can get all of that, plus models that are a snap to keep clean and refill, ensuring a steady supply of beautiful birds to your yard all year round.

It you found this shopping guide to bird feeders helpful, don’t hesitate to share it on your social media. You can also drop us a quick comment below with any concerns, questions, or suggestions!

(Source of featured image: Mikhailo Kazaryk: 72221738/ 123rf.com)

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