I occasionally receive this question on our webpage 'contact us' or in a casual conversation when I tell someone that I enjoy watching birds.
Here is the answer I give from my own experiences. It is not an expert opinion by any means... just a collection of thoughts from 40 years of feeding birds here in Texas (20 years) and back home in the Appalachians (20 years.) If you want to offer suggestions, please do. Our area Wild Bird Centers and Wild Birds Unlimited stores, and articles on Bird Watchers Digest and National Audubon websites, are also great places to look at for suggestions.

Which bird feeder to choose is more dependent on what bird species you are trying to attract than our location. We try to attract seed-eaters, fruit eaters, and nectar eaters. (I don't recommend a meat-eater feeder for raptors as that gets messy.)

Texas is on two major flyways for migrating birds. Tarrant County has recorded over 387 different species. This breaks down further into year-round (60), winter (103) and summer (52) species. Another 110 species routinely fly through during migration and they also will take advantage to refuel along the way. (the remaining 62 species are accidental visitors only, perhaps only seen once in every 5 to 10 years.) So we see bird species that are also seen in the upper midwest and northeast America. (there are seasonal bird species bar graphs on our home page which will tell you when to expect certain species.)

I've tried several styles of feeders over the last 40 years. The wooden feeders that look like little bird houses are popular, but they also attract rodents. The tube-shaped feeders with several openings cut into them and a perch for the birds to sit on are much better in my observations. The flat feeders with a screen bottom are great for larger birds (doves & pigeons), but mine turned into a Cooper's Hawk feeders rather quickly as the doves are sitting out in the open.

With seed feeders, another question is do you have squirrels and do you mind them eating expensive bird food. There are several squirrel-proof models available.

I now use the top-feeding, tube-type squirrel-proof feeders. This design hangs from a Sheppard's hook on a wire cable. The cable connects to the feeder's center pole which is spring loaded. When anything heavier than a Blue Jay lands on the perch(s), the spring shifts downwards closing the access opening to the seeds. A smaller version is hanging from the eves outside an office window. If you hang a feeder near a window, please install a privacy screen or some other window covering to prevent injury from bird-panicked strikes.

At least we don't have issues with bears. My sister in Pennsylvania has bears that come into town quite often when hungry. They love seed feeders and there are no bear-proof feeders that I know of.

I select seed for attracting certain perching birds (typically called "song bird food" on the bags.) I buy my seed at Wild Birds Unlimited where they offer several choices. They will ask if you want to attract Cardinals and Jays, then recommend seed that is heavy on oily sunflower seed (good for their feathers). If you say you want to avoid getting lots of doves and pigeons, the store will recommend seed with lots of safflower seed. My feeders are too small for doves to easily sit on, so I buy a deluxe seed blend which has a little of everything. If you own small dogs, beware getting a seed blend that has raisins, I've learned that dogs are allergic to raisins. Wild Bird Centers also offer multiple types of seed blends, and I occasionally buy seed at a local ranch feed store. Their seed is usually $10 cheaper. However, I find weevils in their bags 2 out of every 5 purchases. (I freeze the bags which kills the weevils. I discovered the birds love dead bugs.)

I buy a "patio blend" for the feeder that hangs over a garden. This blend consists solely of the meat of seeds (no shells). There is no spillage on the ground below this blend. It is more expensive (about $15 more for a 20-lb. bag versus the deluxe song-bird blends.) The patio blend is easily the favorite food in my backyard. It attracts many species of perching birds and 3 species of woodpeckers in our Bedford neighborhood. The only issue I have with patio blend is when it rains or gets 100% humidity, I have to shake the feeder to prevent the food getting wet and moldy.

The last type of seed I buy is Niger seed. This is a favorite of finches and siskins in the winter months. Niger seed requires a special type of feeder and is the most expensive seed to buy. I only put out Niger seed after seeing my first Gold Finch (usually late November through April) It is also the most messy of the bird seed as the little piggies drop a lot on the ground when they swarm the feeder.

To attract hummingbirds, choose a nectar feeder that has bright red on it's surface. The red color is what attracts hummers. I have not had much luck with the decorative blown-glass nectar feeders. They look nice in a garden setting, but are not anymore attractive than a plastic red feeder to a hungry bird's eye. My favorite hummer feeder is sold at Wild Birds Unlimited and Wild Bird Centers. They are shaped like a flying saucer and hold maybe 1 cup of nectar. I have bought the 9" diameter and the 4" diameter designs. I have never had more than one hummer at my feeder at any given time, so I only use the 4" feeders now. Use the larger feeders if you live along the Texas coast where many migrating hummers will tolerate each other because they are starving from their long migration journey. In my small yard, I only attract 2 males and 3 females through the summer season. One of the males will dominate the feeders during the daytime by chasing away any other hummers it sees. To give the other hummers a chance, I put up 3 feeders, each positioned out of sight of from the others. This only allows the males to protect one feeder at a time. In our summer heat we have to change the nectar every 3 to 4 days, and my little flock seldom drinks more than a quarter-cup. I put out 1/2 cup every three days. Please stay away from pre-made nectar sold in some stores that are 'red' in color. These formulas contain Red Dye #9 (unless they have finally corrected their formulae) which is not good for small hummers. Most of us make our own nectar. Mix 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of (boiled) water.

The fruit eaters consist of only a few bird species that migrate through our area. I have seen robins and titmouse nibble on fruit as well. If you live in the outskirts of urban areas and get Orioles, they love fruit. The birds like pieces of citrus fruits and juicy apple slices impaled on a spike where they can perch and eat. The vitamin C and juice is rubbed into their feathers making them more resistant to rain and weather.

Remember! If you do put out a feeder, wash it frequently. Some ornithologists would prefer that folks NOT use bird feeders, but instead plant wildflowers to provide natural food for birds. Birds can carry diseases, some fatal, which they will share with each other when they gather in groups at feeders. Keeping the feeders clean will reduce the risks. National Audubon's policy has softened over the use of feeders over the years. The society realizes that folks like to attract birds to backyards, and many will join in on conservation causes when they notice fewer birds in their neighborhoods.