Finding the BEST Finch Feeder: What’s Working in 2017
Having a quality finch feeder (or multiple finch feeders!) is a cornerstone of any successful backyard feeding station.
Finches are some of the most common birds to see at feeders and are relatively easy to attract. By providing a finch feeder full of nyjer seed (more on this below) you are almost guaranteed to have a constant supply in your backyard.
In my neck of the woods (Ohio), the two most common finches that come to my feeders provide a nice contrast of colors. The House Finch has some beautiful shades of red, while the gorgeous male American Goldfinch stuns in summer with its bright yellow plumage.
It’s especially fun feeding finches during winter when huge flocks can visit my feeders at once! I’m left scrambling for my binoculars, trying to figure out what’s out in my yard.
Table of Contents:
The 3 Best Finch Feeders – Tube vs. Screen/Mesh vs. Sock
Related Reading: The Best Nectar Feeders for Hummingbirds
Related Reading: 5 Bluebird Feeders To Try in 2018
The rest of this post is dedicated to attracting and feeding finches in your backyard. Specifically, we are going to take a look at some of the best finch feeders available across a few different price ranges and different styles. We will also review some tips for attracting finches to your backyard feeders.
Attracting finches starts with the right type of seed in your finch feeder.
Let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what type of finch feeder you have if you don’t use the right kind of birdseed.
Finches are particular when it comes to what they eat. In general, there are only two types of birdseed that will attract them to your backyard feeders.
Sunflower and Nyjer Seed.
And in my opinion, out of these two seeds, there is one clear winner.
The problem with sunflower seeds is that finches LOVE it. But so do so many other birds. For example, the list of birds that like sunflower includes sparrows (including the dreaded House Sparrow), cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, blackbirds and more!
The reason that I like Nyjer seed is that it discriminates against most other species of birds. The list of nyjer loving birds is small and includes finches (Goldfinches, Pine Siskin, House Finch, etc.), chickadees and doves. Chickadees are one of my favorite birds, so I don’t mind them sharing the feeders with the finches. Mourning Doves are too big to land on finch feeders and are left to pick up the seed that falls to the ground.
Even squirrels don’t enjoy nyjer and should leave your finch feeders alone!
What is Nyjer seed?
Nyjer (also spelled niger) seeds are black, tiny and commonly referred to as “thistle,” which can be confusing because it is not related to thistle. It hails from a plant in Ethiopia and is now primarily used as commercial birdseed.
It’s fairly expensive by weight, especially when compared to other types of birdseed. But I have found that I don’t have to refill my finch feeders nearly as often as my feeders that contain sunflower seeds or a general bird mix.View Nyjer Prices
Nyjer seed is not eaten as fast as other food for two reasons:
- Only finches will be eating the nyjer seed. Most other birds will leave it alone.
- The nyjer seed is so small it takes the finches a lot of trips to the feeder to eat all the seeds. Larger seeds (like sunflowers) take up more room and are emptied from feeders much quicker. Sometimes it seems that a flock of House Sparrows can clean an entire feeder of sunflowers seeds out in a few hours!!
The 3 Best Finch Feeders
Now that we have discussed that Nyjer seed is the best food to feed and attract finches, let’s talk about the BEST feeders to distribute this food.
First, you must choose which STYLE of finch feeder you prefer.
You have three options – tube feeders, screen/mesh feeders, and socks.
Personally, I own one of each and continuously test and observe what my local goldfinches and House Finches prefer!
Option #1: Tube Feeders:
These are your classic bird feeders. The seed is added at the top to fill up the tube. Birds then access the food while resting on perches. The seed keeps draining down as more and more is eaten.
There are hundreds of different tube feeders available on the market, but they are not all created equal!
First, make sure you purchase a tube feeder that is designed specifically for finches and Nyjer seed.
It has to do with the feeding ports. Standard tube feeders have large feeding ports so you can use a variety of seed and attract many different species of birds.
Nyjer seed finch feeders don’t have large feeding ports. Instead, they have tiny slits above each perch (see Droll Yankees feeder below).
This makes the Nyjer seed harder to get out. Only birds (like finches) with smaller specialized beaks can consistently get the seed out of the feeder, AND larger birds can’t get messy and dump out all your expensive Nyjer to the ground!
Here is my favorite tube feeder designed for finches. It’s the one that I own and use.
- This niger tube feeder is made by Droll Yankees who have an amazing reputation for quality bird products. It’s made in America (as are all their products!) and backed by their Lifetime Warranty, which covers any defective part or any damage caused by squirrels!
- The yellow top and bases are constructed of zinc die-cast metal.
- The transparent tube body is made of a hard and durable plastic. This also allows observing when the feeder needs to be refilled quickly.
- This simple, classic design is hard to beat. It reminds me of the question “How to build a better mousetrap?”
- It has small slits above each perch that only allows nyjer seed to come out. This ensures House Sparrows or other larger birds can’t dump seed onto the ground. The expensive niger seed lasts as long as possible since not much is wasted.
- The base is contoured and slopes down to the bottom two feeding areas to help the finches empty the feeder (see picture above).
- Droll Yankees included a long cleaning brush to scrub the very deepest parts of the tube. This is helpful since niger finch feeders are notoriously hard to clean thoroughly.
- The die-cast metal cap fits on tightly but is also easy to remove.
- This version is 23 inches tall, has eight ports/perches and can hold up to 2lbs of seed, which is perfect for my backyard. If you have large flocks of finches that you must feed, Droll Yankees also make a 36-inch (with 20 ports!) version. For smaller yards or to serve as a window feeder, you can try their 8-inch finch feeder.
Niger seed tube feeders all seem to have an issue, and this one is no exception. When water inevitably gets inside, it is hard for it to evaporate, which creates moisture inside the feeder. The bottom 3-4 inches of seed gets spoiled sometimes due to water damage.
This makes the seed clumps together and makes it hard to clean the bottom. Many times I have to blast water from a hose into the feeder to wash out the seed stuck at the bottom.
Option #2: Screen/Mesh Feeders:
These finch feeders don’t have perches like most tube feeders. This is because the whole feeder is made from mesh or screen. Finches cling on to the sides and pull seeds out through the screen.
Mesh/Screen feeders technically give a larger area for birds to feed on than a tube feeder with perches since the whole surface area can be accessed. Goldfinches are especially attracted to these feeders because they can easily cling to the sides AND still feed.
This is the screen feeder that I currently own and recommend.
- It’s made entirely of metal. There is NO plastic and NO wood, hence the name “No/No.” (No/No is a brand of Perky Pet). Since it’s made entirely of metal, it’s pretty resistant to squirrels (and other critters). It’s hard to imagine them ever chewing through metal, but I will never put ANYTHING past a squirrel.
- The mesh wire design provides a large surface area for finches to land and cling.
- In the pictures above you will notice two internal baffles inside the mesh tube. This is to distribute seed evenly throughout the feeder. It prevents all the seed accumulating at the bottom and provides a larger surface area for finches to feed.
- The tray at the bottom catches the seed that falls through the screen. I have observed many goldfinches (and House Finches, chickadees) sitting on this tray to eat the seed that fell out. But all the shells from the niger seed eaten from above collect on this dish too. Every few days I brush off what has accumulated.
- It is super easy to clean! The top and base twist right off. Since most of the feeder is mesh wire, there are not many places for seeds to get stuck and accumulate.
- It holds about 1.5 lbs of Nyjer seed. When you go to fill, my recommendation is to do this inside of the container where the seed is stored. This way, any seed that falls through the mesh wire isn’t wasted.
- There are tiny holes drilled into the bottom tray to help with drainage. The seed obviously gets wet when it rains due to the open design, but it dries quickly. Just make sure to replace any uneaten seed after 2-3 weeks (depending on weather).
Just a personal opinion, but it seems that some of the niger seed is wasted as finches feed on it. This is from observing the amount of uneaten seed that is sitting on the tray. I guess that as finches pull niger through the screen, other seeds get pulled through too.
Option # 3: Thistle Socks:
The name says it all – they look like socks hanging from your yard!
Thistle socks are mesh bags filled with Nyjer seed. Some are disposable; some can be refilled over and over. Finches land directly on the sock and pull the food out from the tiny holes. Only birds that can cling to the bag with their feet can use it since there are no perches (like American Goldfinches). This discriminates against many birds.
I use the nyjer seed finch socks below.
- I always keep a box of these in my shed as finch feeder back up. You never know when an explosion of finches will visit your yard. Supplying another feeding station at a moments notice is nice.
- I like that they come pre-filled with Nyjer seed. Just open and set out for the finches!
- The socks are refillable once you run out of the initial seed. There’s a drawstring at the top. I have found I can refill them a few times before they start ripping or look very worn.
- Because the socks are suspended in air, when the bag gets wet it dries quickly. Make sure the Nyjer doesn’t get moldy though. Only let it sit outside for 2-3 weeks if it hasn’t been eaten.
- Surprisingly, the goldfinches in my yard like these socks. It attracts almost the same amount of finches as the other two feeders above.
- Just like the No/No Screen Finch Feeder above, only birds that can cling to the sides of the sock can access the seed. I have only observed goldfinches (and occasional a chickadee) using the socks.
You get what you pay for. Don’t expect your two thistle socks that cost $12 to last more than a few refills. They also don’t add anything to the aesthetics of your yard. They do just look like a sock hanging with birdseed inside!
Coming Soon! – The Battle For Finch Feeder Supremacy
I am currently running some tests to see which of the three finch feeders listed above works best in my yard to attract finches. Check back soon for the full results and observations.
7 Random Tips For Feeding Finches From Feeders
1. Don’t use a finch feeder that is too big and takes weeks for the seed to get eaten. You don’t want your niger seed to get old and spoil. If the seed still isn’t gone after three weeks, you need to empty and replace. If you are continuously wasting seed, you may want to select a smaller finch feeder or don’t fill your current feeder all the way to the top.
2. Is there a pile of black Nyjer seeds accumulating underneath your tube feeder? Don’t think the finches aren’t eating the seeds; you are just seeing the shell. Even though niger seed is small, they still have a tiny seed inside. Finches slit through the shell to eat the seed and discard the husk.
3. Some tube finch feeders have perches ABOVE the feeding ports. This forces birds to hang upside down to feed, which many birds can’t or won’t do. Goldfinches and chickadees have no problem feeding this way.
4. Any Nyjer seed that falls onto the ground won’t grow. It is sterilized, which is a requirement of all Nyjer since it’s imported from overseas.
5. Buy Nyjer seed in bulk to save on prices. But only buy 1-2 months supply at a time. Unlike other types of seed, Nyjer has a limited shelf life. If its too old, finches won’t eat it.
- 5 lb of Nyjer seed on Duncraft.com – Order online!
- 5 lb of Nyjer seed on Amazon.com – Order online!
- Or support a local business (my first choice!). I usually go to my local Wild Birds Unlimited. Wild Birds Unlimited works with seed distributors to obtain the freshest Nyjer possible, which is why it’s typically more expensive than the cheapest seed you can find on Amazon. They like it to be oily, once it dries out it is useless to them.
6. Make sure to purchase a quality seed scoop to avoid messes. It’s terrible to watch expensive Nyjer seed fall helplessly to the ground because the opening of your scoop is bigger than your tube finch feeder. The scoop that I use has a wide mouth to fill my large feeders quickly but also has a small funnel on the other end to fill my tube feeders. A small funnel is helpful and gives excellent precision as I fill my finch feeders.
7. If the nyjer seed sits in your finch feeder too long and starts to get moldy, the entire feeder will need to be cleaned. Clean out the feeder and then sterilize with a bleach-water mixture (~10% bleach). Make sure to rinse thoroughly with water and let dry completely.
What other tips or advice do you follow when it comes to feeding finches from your feeders?
What is your experience between the three different types of finch feeders?
Please use the comments below to share your findings. Thanks for reading!