watching_birds-photo Watching, Attracting and Feeding Birds in New York
with Sam Crowe

Match Feeder, Feed and Species

Some feeders are designed for a particular kind of seed.  One design might be for sunflower or mixed seed while another is for feeding Nyjer® (thistle), a popular seed for attracting finches.  Knowing what kind of birds you wish to attract can help you select the proper feeder and feed type.

Fortunately, a wide variety of species enjoy sunflower seed and there is a variety of both tube and hopper feeders that accommodate sunflower seed.

Here are a few tips.

  • Buntings: will use hanging feeders or feed on the ground.
  • Cardinal: tube or hopper feeder
  • Catbird: fruit on platform feeder - lower is better
  • Chickadee: tube or hopper feeder
  • Doves: feed on the ground
  • Goldfinch: tube, suet or Nyjer in seed sock
  • Grosbeaks: tube, platform or platform feeder
  • Jays: tube feeder, peanut feeder, platform feeder
  • Juncos: suet or feed seed on ground
  • Mockingbird: suet or platform feeder
  • Nuthatches: tube, platform, suet
  • Orioles: fruit, suager water
  • Pine Siskins: tube, seed sock, suet
  • Purple Finch/House Finch: tube or hopper feeder
  • Quail: feed on the ground
  • Red-winged Blackbirds: tube, hopper or platform feeders
  • Sparrows: feed on the ground or low platform
  • Thrushes: feed on the ground or low platform
  • Towhees: tube or on ground
  • Woodpeckers: tube, peanut feeders, suet
  • Wrens: suet

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Little brown jobs, that is...

No, we are not talking about an ex-president of the United States. We're referring to the other LBJs - the Little Brown Jobs known as sparrows. There are about 35 sparrow species found in the United States.  Most are migratory and some will visit feeders for various seeds or suet.  The familiar Dark-eyed Junco definitely has a different look, but is in the sparrow family.

Black-throated Sparrow, side view

Black-throated Sparrow. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

My favorite sparrow is the Black-throated Sparrow of the southwestern U.S.  He is sharp dresser that goes well beyond the brown streaking of most of the LBJs in the sparrow family.  Black-throated Sparrows can be found in barren habitats that support few other species.

Nine U.S. subspecies of Black-throated Sparrows are recognized. They each exhibit minor plumage variations.


Birding Quick Hits

Harris's Hawks of the southwestern United States hunt in packs to increase their chance of success.

Learn about the American Robin.
american robin

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I attract more birds?

It is often said that variety is the spice of life.  When it comes to attracting more birds, and different kinds of birds, variety is indeed the key.

This will sound a little far afield, but remember the movie Cast Away, where Tom Hanks is stranded on an island after a plane crash? What did he need to survive?

  • Shelter. He had to have protection from the elements.
  • Water. A source of fresh water was vital for his survival.
  • Food. The third important ingredient.  Us different food choices and feeder locations to attract more birds.

Check the Gardening section for bird-friendly plants that will help you develop your backyard habitat that will provide birds food, protection and a place to nest.

From there, add water and food, such as black oil sunflower and/or suet.

Bird identification

Learning to identify the birds you see is a fun and rewarding experience.  If you are a novice at identifying birds we have several options for you. 

50 common New York birdsNifty Fifty Guides:  Our Nifty Fifty Guide to the Birds of New York is available on-line and in print.   It contains 25 common backyard birds and 25 additional common birds found in New York.  Purchase the print version.

The online version is shown below. Click on a corner to turn the page. has multiple resources for identifying a bird you have seen as well as information on improving your identification skills.   You can also send us an image on the web site and we will try to identify it for you.