So long as they’re not after any seeds you’ve planted, it’s always a delight to watch birds visit your garden. And between October and April, when food in the wild is much more scarce, a predictable source of food will be highly appreciated by your feathered visitors. But bird feeders and bird tables aren’t without their challenges, so you should choose wisely.
Feeders come in a variety of materials – wood, ceramic, metal – and are typically hung by wire from a tree branch or wall bracket. If you’re keen to attract lots of birds to your garden, then you might want to buy a freestanding table.
If you want to offer your visitors somewhere to drink and bathe, take a look at our list of the best bird baths. And for more information on which berries and plants your winged guests will appreciate for food, read our article on plants for birds.
Where is the best place to put bird feeders?
You’ll want to put your feeder in a sheltered place that is difficult for cats, squirrels, rats and other pests to access. Birds will avoid your feeder if they see any predators near it. Hanging feeders can be attached to tree branches clear of the ground, but you should still make sure there aren’t any nearby branches that might allow pests to bother your birds.
Grey squirrels will likely be the biggest nuisance. Not only are they fond of bird food, but they’re also known for chewing through plastic feeders. All the feeders in our round-up are made of non-chewable material, and some have an outer cage that will prevent anything but smaller birds getting through to the food inside.
Bird tables are best erected on a tall post that keeps them well clear of the ground. Lots already come with a post attached, but some are designed to be put either on the ground, as birds such as blackbirds, robins and wrens like to feed at that level. These should be packed away at night, and put in slightly different positions each day, to avoid a build-up of bird droppings in any one area.
Best bird feeders in 2021
National Trust Vierno Bird Feeder
We love the elegant, organic simplicity of this ceramic feeder, which will make a pretty and unobtrusive addition to any garden – you’ll just need to make sure you have a branch or bracket to hang it from. One thing to remember with ceramic as a material is that it isn’t frostproof, so despite the name (‘vierno’ means winter in Spanish), this could crack in particularly low temperatures.
The Nuttery Helix Seed Bird Feeder
This bird feeder from The Nuttery makes use of a swirling metal rod design, which is designed especially for smaller birds like finches, sparrows, tits, nuthatches and woodpeckers. Squirrels and larger birds won’t be able to make it through the mesh. The lid is removable, and you can load up to 400g worth of seeds into the feed. Handily, the bottom will catch seed husks and any other leftover mess.
RSPB Suet Feeder and Guardian
Suet is a high-calorie feed that most birds love, and you can buy balls of this rendered fat to pop into your feeder. This non-nonsense feeder from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is specifically designed to hold suet balls. The modest green colour means it won’t look too incongruous in your garden, and it’s easy to clean.
Blomus Borea Bird Feeder
If you find traditional, house-style bird feeders a bit twee, take a look at Blomus’s line of stylish, minimal stainless steel bird feeders and tables. Their line-up is always evolving but the Borea remains a firm favourite. It’s a strap-around feeder, which can be easily fastened around a tree trunk. The small inside perch makes it a good choice if you don’t want to attract too many birds to your garden.
Birdball Belle Feeder
This clay, lime-coloured, ball-shaped feeder by Birdball is another that’s aimed at small birds, who can take from its contents by flying directly underneath. It’s suitable for any feed of your choice. The makers also suggest you top it up with a little wool, which your feathered friends can use for nesting.
Pippa’s Pottery Ceramic Bird Feeder
We absolutely love this line of fun, coloured bird feeders, which come from the studio of West Country ceramicist Pippa Flack. They’re available in a range of muted primary colours, each spotted with dimples, and will give your garden a lovely accent of colour. Seeds are easily loaded inside. Flack makes a similar-looking line of vases, which are also available on Etsy if you’re in need of a match.
Sol 72 Outdoor Roselli Bird Table
One assured way of bringing lots of birds into your garden is by setting up a bird table on your patio or lawn, with several points of access. This traditional-style softwood table stands on one solitary strut, which will certainly be hard for cats or foxes to climb. Plus the pitched roof will keep the feed on the table dry in wet weather.
CJ Wildlife Soho Bird Table
Here’s another bird table, but in contrast to the Roselli, this painted white timber model is one you can easily move around your garden or patio. Since it’s so close to the ground, it could attract unwanted visitors… but the beauty of a portable bird table is that it can easily be put away at night.
Garden Selections Wild Bird Feeding Station
This steel, bronze-finished bird station from Garden Selections will turn your garden into a bustling hangout for your local birds. It features a water tray, four separate feeders and, what the manufacturers delightfully describe as ‘bathing facilities’. Seriously, you might want to start charging admission.