If you have lived or have a cottage in Michigan’s Thumb or a cabin in Northern Michigan, there is almost no way you can get away with not having a bird feeder during the summer months. It’s a rite of passage and a tradition for many folks to support the migrating Orioles and Hummingbirds in your own backyard for the entire season. But the choice of which type of birdfeeder to pick can be a daunting task. It depends on the type of wild birds you want to attract and how to discourage your feeders’ being raided by squirrels, chipmunks, and deer who want a quick and easy meal from your expensive seed. We will cover the 7 basic bird feed types you can make on your own or are available at our local stores. With a review of the type of seed each is perfect for. We bet you can’t pick just one.
#1 Suet Bird Feeder
This is our year-round feeder. Commonly presented to attract woodpeckers, this feeder also draws in many wild and songbirds. Various types of suet are available. Anything with peanuts will be a big hit with Blue Jays, who, while somewhat frustrated by negotiating with a small suet feeder, still manage to get to the fatty goodness it offers. Experts recommend picking a cage feeder with a latch or a snap and avoiding mesh suet feeders as birds can become entangled in them.
For details on placement and which birds are drawn to suet feeders see the Frequently Asked Questions later on this article.
#2 Platform Feeder
This basic feeder is in our yard, and it’s one of the most visited feeders we have. While the platform is exposed to rain and snow, a bird can swoop in for a quick meal. My own theory on why this type of feeder is a favorite is that the birds can see what’s in it, and they have a full unobstructed view of their surroundings. Depending on how high you mount a feeder platform it can also draw for deer and squirrels. I have seen a doe stand up on her hind legs and literally clean out our pole-mounted platform feeder in a few seconds. This feeder is also the site of many squabbles between aggressive Jays who tend to move in and clear everyone out while they feast on peanuts and black oiler sunflower seeds.
Some so-called bird experts scoff at this simple feeder calling it. “One step above throwing fistfuls of seed on the ground.” However, if the platform is small, doesn’t hold moisture, and is cleaned and refreshed often, it can be the center of your daily bird action.
For details on placement and which birds are drawn to platform feeders see the Frequently Asked Questions later on this article.
#3 Hopper Bird Feeder
The House, Chalet or Hopper bird feeder can vary in size but can hold a ton of seed. I think of them as the perfect feeder to keep the local birds happy while we are away. If well constructed, a hopper feeder can keep the seed secure and dry. However if the feed gets wet, it can quickly get moldy which the birds will sense and avoid. If they are not eating from your hopper bird feeder, check if the seed smells or has a slight fuzz which indicates mold has set in. Dump out the spoiled seed and wash with dish soap, rinse, dry and refill with fresh bird seed.
For details on placement and which birds are drawn to the hopper style of Michigan bird feeder see the Frequently Asked Questions later in this article.
#4 Nyjer Seed Feeder
Nyjer or Thistle seed feeder come in several shapes. The most commonly available nyjer feeders are thin plastic tubes with small holes that dispenses the nyjer seeds. The structure of the feeder and the small size of the seed means that you don’t have to fill this very often. It keeps the tiny seed dry unless you have a severe storm with soaking rain and wind.
Thistle and nyjer seeds are so small that larger birds wont be interested. Neither will squirrels. Its common to see a black pile of what looks to be thistle seed. But this is typically just the husk and morning doves, sparrows and finches will police the area a bit.
For details on placement and which birds are drawn to Nyjer bird feeders see the Frequently Asked Questions later on this article.
#5 Window Mounted Bird Feeder
Window feeders are ideal for those with little or no backyard. You can place a window feeder in place with suction cups, and you’re in business. The feeders tend to be small, so refilling is commonly a daily chore. So is keeping them clean. One major benefit; squirrels and chipmunks will typically not bother a window feeder as it’s practically inaccessible. It may take a while before birds cozy up to being close to a house and all the activity inside. These are a neat choice for a shut-in, and needless to say; house cats love them.
#6 Oriole Feeder
When it comes to attracting Orioles to your Michigan bird feeder, think orange. The migrating birds are a huge favorite in the Thumb and Northern Michigan, and birders will place oriole feeders in their yards year after year. All the popular bird magazines will indicate that Orioles will be attracted to oranges mounted on the feeder. We took this another step and included a small Ball Jelly Jar in the base. We found that given a choice, Orioles will prefer a slightly thin mix of grape jelly over the oranges any day. See our article that outlines the Best Tips and Practices to Attract Orioles to Your Backyard for details.
#7 Hummingbird Feeder
We place a bunch of hummingbird feeders on our front porch that is under an awning. This results in a steady stream of red-throated hummingbirds feeding in sight of our kitchen and living room window throughout the day. Like the Oriole, Hummingbirds like bright colors and love fresh sweet homemade nectar. We have great tips and a recipe for homemade hummingbird nectar in our article Best Oriole Feeders And Nectar To Attract Orioles And Hummingbirds.
Michigan Bird Feeder Factoids
When placing a suet feeder, keep in mind that the area under it will become a ground feeding scene for other birds. Morning doves are a common sight under our suet cages and do a fair job of cleaning up. These feeders will also draw in squirrels. If you mount the cage to hang with a small chain at least 18 inches away from a tree, this will discourage all but the most acrobatic of chipmunks and squirrels.
In northern Michigan, we have seen Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Starlings. It’s rare, but on a quiet morning, a Pileated Woodpecker has paid a visit. In the afternoon, our pair of cardinals and will visit. Even orioles will take a nibble from time to time. Some Yellow Warblers occasionally visit suet feeders if they have fruit or berries. The fat and tallow mixed in the suet is a high-energy food that Animal fat is easily eaten and metabolized by many birds; it’s a high-energy food, precious in cold weather.
Like the other feeders, hopper feeders will draw the interest of squirrels. Placing a hopper feeder on top of a pole or a shepherds hook with a squirrel baffle may help prevent its total ransacking by the four legged critters. Avoid placing the feeder next to bushes or other cover that offer cats the opportunity to take your birds. Like the platform feeder, placing the hopper out in the open offer the ability for the birds to swoop in and feel secure.
Hopper bird feeders are attractive to most wild feeder birds including the smaller species which are intimated the openness of platform feeders. Hopper feeders are frequented by Finches, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Pine Siskins, Grosbeaks, Sparrows, Titmice, and Chickadees
The tiny thistle seeds offered by a Nyjer feeder are a favorite of Chickadees, Goldfinches, Redpolls, and Pine Siskins.
While these types of feeders can be placed just about anywhere, we found the ideal place is in our lilac bushes and from branches of small trees. The small birds will hop from nearby branches to the feeder to feed many times and feel hidden and secure.