Choosing the Right Camera for Nature Photography

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There are a lot of reasons people take pictures of nature: to document a rare bird, identify a wildflower, share a beautiful landscape- the list goes on and on. For most things in life, the cameras on our phones do an amazing job. But when it comes to photographing nature- especially wildlife- our phone cameras don’t always do the trick. Getting a camera can definitely be a worthwhile investment- but where do you even start? There’s so many options and specs out there, it can be almost impossible to know what to choose.

In this post, I break down the pros and cons of 3 camera types for nature photography: phones, DSLRs, and point-and-shoot cameras.

Where I’ve Been

I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: I broke the #1 rule of blogging, and haven’t done a great job keeping up with this blog over the last few months.

There are several factors which have contributed to this: managing my dissertation, prepping my thesis manuscript for publication, planning my wedding reception, etc. have taken up most of my mental bandwidth.

I go into more detail in this Instagram post:

My Experience with Nature Photography

I want to be clear: I am by no means a professional photographer. However, I do love nature and taking pictures of it. Photography has been an important part of both my professional ventures/research and also recreation. This post is based on my experiences and opinions regarding cameras, which other people may or may not agree with.

Note: If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I like to edit my photos using Adobe Lightroom. Because I really wanted to highlight the functionality of each camera type, the images I’ve included in this post are not edited in any way.

My Favorite Types of Cameras

Again- I am not a professional. The goal of this post is not to break down every type of camera that exists. I’m going to focus on 3- smartphone, DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras- which I’ve found to be especially useful for nature photography.

Smartphone Cameras

If you have a smartphone, I probably don’t have to tell you that it has a camera. The quality of cameras on smartphones has come a long way over the years.

Pros: Convenience

Most likely, you probably already have a smartphone with a decent camera in your pocket (which is super convenient, but also means you don’t have to spend money on a separate camera!)

Depending on what you’re trying to photograph, phones nowadays can take some really impressive pictures. I rely VERY heavily on my phone when it comes to taking pictures for my research. Here are a handful of pictures I’ve taken with my current phone (Samsung Galaxy S8 Active) through the years:

Cons: Zoom

Phone cameras have been steadily improving over time, but most still struggle when it comes to zooming in on things. I find phone cameras tend to work best on things you can get up close and personal with- like flowers, certain insects, tracks, etc.- or things that you can hold in your hand. Otherwise, you may want to consider getting a dedicated camera. In my experience, phones can also have a difficult time photographing fast-moving or flying animals and insects.

Tip: if you *must* zoom in using your phone, try taking a picture far away, then cropping the image. It usually yields a better quality picture than zooming with the camera.

DSLR Cameras

DSLR stands for Digital single-lens reflex camera. I’m not going to go into detail about how they work, because it’s honestly not that important for the purposes of this blog post.

Pros: Artistry & Image Quality

The main advantage of DSLRs is they give you a lot of control over things like aperture, depth of field, exposure, focus, etc. This is one of the main appeals of DSLRs (and why so many professional photographers use them).

In general, DSLRs tend to have better image quality, shutter speeds, and light sensitivity than point-and-shoot cameras. When using DLSRs, you also have the ability to change lenses, add external light sources, and make other modifications to the camera.

Cons: Lenses

One of the defining features of DSLR cameras is their lenses. Rather than being built in, you can switch between lenses with different focal lengths which are designed to work at different distances. When it comes to nature photography, this can create challenges. To zoom in on something which is far away with a DSLR, you may need a very large (EXPENSIVE) lens. Lenses can often cost more than the camera itself. Depending on what you’re doing, hauling around a gigantic lens may not be very practical either.

To use a DSLR well, you’ll also need to spend some time figuring out how they work. In honesty, there’s a lot of great resources on the internet that can teach you the basics of a DSLR. It took me a couple of days to start to get a handle on mine.

My Camera

Personally, I’ve been using a Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR camera for several years now. (Note: there are newer models available, like the Rebel T7). I find the Canon Rebel line of DSLR cameras to be very beginner-friendly, and it definitely gets the job done.

I own two lenses- a 18-55mm lens (which it usually comes with) and a 75-300mm lens (which runs about $200). There are certainly better lenses out there, but I find these two lenses to be a good balance of size, utility, and cost. It can be very tempting to try and buy off-brand (more affordable) lenses- but keep in mind that the quality of a lens can have a HUGE impact on the quality of images you can take with a DSLR camera.

Through the years, this camera has been a reliable staple for my research and recreation. I’ve been able to take some wonderful pictures, but it has its limits. In particular, I tend to have a hard time getting good pictures of small, far away animals. However, I find that it works very well at moderate distances and for macro photography.

Here are some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken with my DSLR:

Another advantage of DSLR cameras is cost (sort of). They aren’t necessarily cheap, but buying the lenses separately can potentially let you spread the costs out over time. I had my Canon for about a year before I decided to get the 300mm lens. By contrast, you have to pay all of the cost of a point-and-shoot camera up front (for comparison, my husband’s camera costs close to $600).

Point-And-Shoot Cameras

Unlike DSLRs, the lenses on point-and-shoot cameras are built in to the device itself. These cameras can vary wildly in size, cost, and quality.

Pros: Zoom & Ease of Use

In my experience, (certain) point-and shoot-cameras tend to be well-suited for taking pictures requiring a lot of zoom (which can be really handy when photographing wildlife). They also can be a little more straightforward to use than DSLR cameras are. As the name suggests- you just point and shoot. You don’t necessarily have to think a lot about constantly adjusting your settings.

Depending on what you choose, a point-and-shoot can be a more affordable and portable option than a DSLR (but this is not always the case). A high-quality point-and-shoot camera can be comparable to some DSLRs in cost and size. For reference, here’s a side by side of my husband’s point-and-shoot Nikon and my DSLR Canon:

While point-and-shoot cameras can be much smaller and cheaper than DSLRs, this is not always the case. My husband’s point-and-shoot (left) is comparable in size and cost to my DSLR (right), but has a more powerful zoom.


Since some features are more automated than a DSLR, you don’t usually have as much control over things like focus, depth of field, etc. Sometimes it can also be difficult to focus on a specific object without a manual focus like my DSLR has. You also don’t have the flexibility of changing lenses or light sources.

That being said, these cameras can still take really good pictures. An old Sony point-and-shoot I had while studying abroad in 2015 yielded me these pictures:

My Husband’s Camera

Tom uses a point-and-shoot camera- specifically the Nikon COOLPIX P900. This camera is really popular among certain types of wildlife enthusiasts for one key reason: the zoom on this camera is INSANE. It has the equivalent of a 2000mm focal length.

Here are some of Tom’s favorite pictures he’s taken with it:

Considerations When Choosing a Camera

There a couple of things that I find very helpful to think about when choosing a camera for nature photography:

What are you trying to take pictures of?

A lot of times, the type of camera you need varies based on a) how big it is and b) how close you can get to it. Both of those things determine how strong of a zoom you will or won’t need from a camera.

If you don’t need to zoom in, a phone may work just fine. I find my phone works very well for things like wildflowers, plants, animal tracks, and things I can hold in my hand.

If you need to zoom in a little bit, a DSLR will probably work. I really like my DSLR for macro shots of insects and larger animals that I can get somewhat close to. Because of their faster shutter speeds, DSLRs also tend to be better for fast-moving objects.

If you need a REALLY POWERFUL zoom, a good point-and-shoot camera like Tom has is probably your best bet. My husband’s camera tends to be very popular among turtle enthusiasts and birders- animals that are relatively small and hard to get close to. If I wanted my DSLR to compete with the Nikon COOLPIX P900, I would need a MUCH larger lens.

Why are you taking pictures?

In my experience, there are two main kinds of nature photography: 1) identification images and 2) artistic expression.

In some cases, you might want to take a picture to a) figure out what something is or b) prove you saw a rare species. In this case, phones and point-and-shoot cameras work extremely well for this. I use my phone a lot when trying to identify things using iNaturalist. For things that move quickly or are further away, a point-and-shoot works very well.

However, if you’re really wanting to focus on taking the most beautiful picture you can, you might want to think about a DSLR. My husband and I have found that I typically have more control over focus, aperture, depth of field, etc. than he does. In particular, I tend to have a much easier time taking macro shots than he does.

Sadly, I don’t have a good side-by-side comparison of this (since Tom tends to delete photos that don’t turn out on the spot).

Final Thoughts

I want to be very clear about something: dropping a lot of money on a fancy camera does not guarantee you will take amazing pictures. A talented photographer can do a lot with a mediocre camera, and a sub-par photographer probably won’t utilize high-quality equipment to its fullest potential. Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources on the internet nowadays that can show you how to make the most of any camera- whether it’s your phone, a DSLR, or a point-and-shoot.

Something else you may want to consider is size and portability. My husband’s Nikon is about the same size as my Canon, but this may not be the case depending on what cameras or lenses you want to use. Some point-and-shoot cameras can be much more compact than DSLRs, but may not yield the same image quality.

If you’re interested in dabbling in nature photography, I would recommend starting with your phone. My phone’s camera has a “Pro” mode, which lets me manipulate ISO, aperture, white balance, etc. Playing around with that is a good way to dabble in photography without dropping a lot of money on a camera. If you find that you really like doing that over time, it may be worth investing in a camera.


Bird Feeder Tips from a Bird Biologist

I get commissions for purchases made through Amazon affiliate links in this post.

Personally, I love having bird feeders- especially during the pandemic. Although my husband and I have been spending most of our time in our small 800 square foot apartment over the last 8 months, our bird feeders have helped us feel connected to nature and the outdoors. Whether it’s because of the pandemic or simply because of colder winter temperatures, I’ve found that bird feeders can help make being stuck inside a little more bearable. Strategically placing our bird feeders so they are visible from our desks has honestly been great for our mental health.

The information and recommendations in this post are based on a combination of scientific research and our own personal experiences. To be clear, I am not a bird biologist (aka an ornithologist)- but my husband is. He has over 5 years of experience working with and studying birds, so he knows a thing or two about attracting them to your feeders. Over the last year, we documented almost 30 species of birds at our feeders on our small apartment patio.

My husband, Tom, with a snowy owl.

Some people have concerns that bird feeders are detrimental to birds. For the most part, feeders provide birds with supplemental food. Currently, there is no scientific evidence that these supplemental foods are detrimental to birds. In general, bird species that commonly visit feeders tend to be doing better than species that do not. As long as you appropriate action to minimize disease transmission, window collisions, and predation risks (especially from cats), setting up bird feeders can be a good way to help support local birds.


Keeping Birds Safe

If you’re genuinely interested in setting up your own feeders, there are a few things that you’ll want to think about to make sure you’re keeping birds safe.

Cats: Do you live on the first floor? This may seem arbitrary, but it’s important. Feral and outdoor cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. alone every year. If you live on the ground floor, birds may be more vulnerable to getting attacked by cats while visiting your feeders. For this reason (and many others we will discuss in another post), if you own a cat, it is best to keep it indoors. When my husband first moved to Ft. Worth, he refrained from putting up feeders because he lived on the first floor in an apartment complex with an ample number of outdoor cats.

Hawks: Inevitably, lots of bird activity at your feeders will attract bird-eating hawks such as Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks- something my husband and I can personally attest to. If you start to have issues with hawks, take the feeders down for a few days and the hawks should move on.

Windows: It is estimated that millions of birds die every year from window collisions. During the day, this typically happens because windows can reflect vegetation or the sky. The best way to minimize window collisions are to break up the reflections on the window. This can be achieved in many ways, including the addition of streamers, suction cups, or decals. One product recommended by the ABC are Feather Friendly Window Markers (pictured below)- adhesive dots which break up the reflection of the window. The American Bird Conservancy has compiled a list of resources and products which help make glass safe for birds. Alternatively, you can reduce mortality from window collisions by moving your feeder within 3 feet of the window, which is a great practical option when you live in an apartment. When feeders are placed close to a window, it is difficult for birds to gain enough momentum to get seriously injured when leaving the feeder. My husband and I can attest to this. Our platform and small tube feeder are a couple of feet outside of our dining room window, and although birds occasionally collide with the window, it is always at a much lower speed than our living room window (which is about 6 feet away from the closest feeder).

Products like these adhesive Feather Friendly Window Markers help break up the reflections created by windows, reducing chances of bird collisions.

Squirrels: If you set up bird feeders, there is a VERY strong chance that you will attract squirrels. My husband can attest to the fact that keeping squirrels away from your feeders is an uphill battle. This video does a really great (and hilarious) job highlighting why squirrels are such formidable opponents. At my last apartment, a squirrel figured out how to scale the wall of my apartment building (like Spiderman) to reach the feeder. You can buy feeders which are designed to prevent squirrels from accessing the bird seed, mount feeders on a pole in an open area (at least 10 feet from the nearest shrub or tree), or create a dedicated squirrel feeder. If you live in an apartment, you may have to accept that it will be very difficult to prevent squirrels from accessing your feeders.

Feeder Cam Livestreams

Setting up bird feeders may not be a practical option for everyone. Depending on your finances, location, willingness to maintain feeders, or the layout of your home, setting up a bird feeder may not be realistic for you. If you have concerns or hesitations about setting up your own feeders, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy them!

There are quite a handful of bird feeder live streams from around the globe. Throwing up a live stream on your computer or TV can be a great way to connect to birds and nature without needing your own feeders. Plus, it can be a lot of fun trying to identify birds that you may not be familiar with. My husband and I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this Allen bird cam live stream from Pretoria, South Africa. Since we have a field guide for South African birds, we have a lot of fun trying to identify the different birds on the live stream.

Live stream of a bird feeder from Pretoria, South Africa.

If you have kids, trying to identify birds on live streams can be a great way to introduce them to naturalism. I could also see this being a great option for individuals living in assisted living facilities, dorms, or apartments where setting up bird feeders may not be possible. These live streams are a great way of bringing the outdoors in.

Here are some links to some other livestreams by Cornell:

Where to Shop

You can find bird seed and feeders from a wide array of vendors from Walmart and Amazon to Home Depot and other hardware stores.

Personally, I would do some research to see if you have a local specialty bird shop. These businesses tend to be much smaller, but have a much wider selection of feeders and bird food. We’ve also found them to be extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful (which is really great when you’re first getting started or adjusting your setup). Personally, we like to shop at Wild Bird Center, which has a variety of locations around the country. Wild Birds Unlimited is another option that is a little more widely distributed.

Choosing the Right Food

Different types of food are likely to attract different types of birds. Project Feederwatch provides a good breakdown of the types of birds that different foods will attract.

Bird foods include (but are not limited to):

  • Sunflower seed: this is the most common type of bird food in North America. Its thin shells and high energy make it a favorite food of many common birds (such as cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, etc.)
  • Hulled sunflower seeds: these are sunflower seeds with the shells removed. This tends to be more accessible to a wider variety of birds, and makes less of a mess than traditional sunflower seeds.
  • Fruit: different fruits can be used to attract birds like orioles, mockingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, and more.
  • Mealworms: Mealworms are the commercially available larvae of the mealworm beetle. Whether live or dried, this is a favorite of many insect-eating birds like chickadees, titmice, and bluebirds.
  • Millet: typically found in seed mixes, millet is a favorite food of many ground foraging birds, like juncos and sparrows.
  • Milo: this seed tends to be found in inexpensive seed mixes, and is not a favorite of most birds.
  • Nyjer: nyjer seeds are very small seeds which attract finches, such as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. Because of their small size, nyjer seeds require a special feeder.
  • Oats: although not normally found in seed mixes, you can attract birds such as doves and quail by adding oats to a platform feeder.
  • Peanuts: we can personally attest that peanuts are a favorite of many birds including doves, chickadees, Blue Jays, titmice, woodpeckers, and more. Pre-shelled peanuts are best for smaller birds like chickadees. Avoid using salted or flavored peanuts.
  • Suet: in essence, suet is a chunk of beef fat which is highly appealing to many insect-eating birds. You can often find cakes, which are also made with seeds or fruits.

One of the biggest recommendations my husband has is using a pre-hulled seed, like Wild Bird Center’s Patiowise bird seed, which includes hulled sunflower seeds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) without seed casings, it makes less of a mess (which is nice when have a patio or have downstairs neighbors that may not appreciate shells from sunflower seeds peppering the floor of their patio. 2) Not all birds can shell seeds like sunflowers. Cardinals, for example, have a large beak which is built to easily remove the shells from seeds. Birds like wrens however, have much smaller beaks that aren’t necessarily designed to remove seed casings. If you buy pre-hulled seeds, even birds with slender bills can enjoy sunflower seeds.

“Patiowise” bird seed (left) with hulled sunflower seeds vs normal bird seed (right).

Choosing the Right Bird Feeder

There are many different types and styles of bird feeders, which are designed for different foods and attract different kinds of birds.


Many species of birds prefer to feed on large, flat surfaces and may be hesitant to visit feeders. In our experience, Dark-eyed Juncos have never eaten from our feeders, but will readily eat seed if we scatter it on the ground. It’s a little bit of a mess, but we enjoy seeing the birds hopping around the patio.

Platform Feeders

Platform feeders are essentially a flat, raised or hanging surface onto which bird food is spread. It should have drain holes to prevent the accumulation of water. Some are made with covers to help keep seed dry, but ours is uncovered since the overhang on our patio usually shelters the feeder from rain. Platform feeders are well-suited for a wide variety of bird species, especially ground-foraging birds (like doves and sparrows). They are also compatible with a many food types, including most seeds, oats, mealworms, and fruit.

Wild Bird Center’s “Going Green” platform feeder ($32.99), made from recycled milk jugs. Photo from Wild Bird Center

If you’re going to pick one type of bird feeder, I would recommend a platform feeder, like this cedar platform feeder or this recycled plastic platform feeder. Many birds like doves, juncos, etc. are used to foraging on the ground, so eating off of a platform feeder comes naturally to them. Platform feeders attract a wide diversity of birds and may come more naturally to birds than traditional bird feeders.

Tube Feeders

Tube feeders are probably what most people think of when they picture a bird feeder. These are typically a hollow cylinder made of glass or plastic with ports that allow birds to access seeds from perches.

A red-bellied woodpecker visiting our large tube feeder.

The types of birds your tube feeder will attract can vary based on the size of the perches. Smaller feeders and perches tend to be best suited for small birds like chickadees, sparrows, and titmice. Larger perches tend to be more accessible to larger birds like large woodpeckers and Blue Jays. However, some determined and clever larger birds may surprise you with their dexterity. It’s not uncommon for Blue Jays and woodpeckers to visit our smaller tube feeder.

You may also want to consider attaching a tray to the bottom of a tube feeder, effectively creating a hybrid tube/platform feeder. This helps make your tube feeders more accessible to birds that may not be comfortable with perches or physically cannot use them. I’ve seen many doves try to use the perches on the tube feeder, but it’s definitely a struggle for them. We have found a tray to be especially helpful whenever you’re dealing with birds that are unfamiliar with feeders. It’s also a nice way to start off your bird feeder setup because it gives you the benefits of both a platform and tube feeder without needing two separate feeders. At our current apartment, we eventually decided to remove the tray because we found it made our tube feeder a little *too* accessible to the 30+ doves that regularly visit our feeders.

Many tube feeders are designed so removable trays can be attached to the bottom, like this tray from Wild Bird Center ($12.99). Photo from Wild Bird Center

Nyjer Socks & Feeders

These feeders have especially small holes which are designed to dispense nyjer (thistle) seed. Typically, this type of seed is eaten almost exclusively by finches- such as American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin which have small, sharp beaks. If you’re going to use nyjer seed, it’s best to have a dedicated feeder since most birds will not eat thistle seeds.

There are a couple of options when it comes to nyjer feeders. There are different styles of nyjer tube feeders, which typically cost $20 or more. Most nyjer tube feeders are made with mesh, where finches can land and easily remove the small seeds.

If you’re like us, you may not want to invest a lot of money in a feeder if you aren’t sure it will actually be used. Nyjer socks are a great option- they’re basically a mesh bag and tend to be a much more affordable option (you can easily get them for <$10).

To be clear, a nyjer feeder is not necessary to attract finches. Personally, our goldfinches and pine siskins seem to enjoy our normal bird seed more than nyjer seeds. I would only suggest getting a nyjer feeder if you know that you have finches who would use it.

Suet Feeders

Suet cages are designed to hold suet (beef fat) or suet cakes (suet mixed with seeds or other food). These feeders are good for attracting insect-eating birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. I’ll note that I’ve seen other birds eat suet too- including doves.

Extreme heat can melt suet and cause it to spoil. We usually take ours down once temperatures begin to warm up in the spring, and put it back up in the fall.

Titmouse at a suet feeder. Image from Wild Bird Center.

Fruit Feeders

I was first exposed to fruit feeders was while I was studying abroad in Costa Rica. A large number of birds in the tropics enjoy fruit, so it was common to see bananas, papaya, and other fruit nailed to boards to attract birds. A less crude (but equally effective) option is to add fruit to platform feeders.

A blue-gray tanager inspecting bananas at a feeder in Costa Rica.

In North America, including fruit at bird feeders is much less common. Most often, fruit (such as orange halves or slices) can be used to try and attract orioles. Other fruits, such as grapes and raisins, can attract other birds such as mockingbirds and Cedar Waxwings. If you decide to add fruit to your bird feeders, you’ll want to keep an eye out to make sure they don’t get moldy.

Hummingbird Feeders

These feeders are specially designed to disperse sugar water for hummingbirds. These feeders are rather unique, so I plan to describe them in more detail in a dedicated future post. We normally put our hummingbird feeder up around the same time we take our suet cage down in the spring.

Maintaining your Feeders

One of the drawbacks of bird feeders is that they can facilitate the spread of disease. If you aren’t willing to regularly clean your bird feeders, you may be doing more harm than good.

Regardless of what type of feeder you have, you’ll want to make sure you clean it regularly to remove any rotting food debris and disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella. One study found that soaking feeders in a diluted bleach solution for 10 minutes helps remove more bacteria than washing with soap and water alone. Alternatively, you can soak the feeder in a weak vinegar solution for 1 hour, then scrub any debris with a clean brush, and rinse thoroughly. A third option is to run them in a dishwasher with hot water (we use a dish detergent with bleach for good measure).

One of the drawbacks of tube feeders in particular is that they require birds to insert their heads into the feeder. This can facilitate the spread of conditions like conjunctivitis, an eye condition which occurs in finches. Sometimes called House Finch eye disease, this infection can cause birds eyes to become swollen shut, causing blindness in extreme cases. To minimize this, you should regularly clean tube feeders. My husband likes to run our empty tube feeders though the dishwasher about once a week. If you notice an outbreak of conjunctivitis, you may want to take down your tube feeders until the infected birds recover, pass on, or leave.

Various stages of conjunctivitis in House Finches, which causes red, swollen, watery, and crusty eyes. In extreme cases, this can result in blindness. Image gallery from Project Feederwatch

Our Feeder Setup

Our apartment is on the third floor and has several trees nearby, where birds often post up in before and after visiting our feeders. We live off of the Trinity River in Fort Worth (e.g. there is a fair amount of green space and trees around). We are fortunate in the fact that our patio is extremely difficult for both cats and squirrels to reach.

Our feeders are positioned along our patio so they can be seen from our living and dining rooms. Incidentally, we can also see our feeders from our desks, which has made working from home a lot more bearable.

This shows a portion of our feeder setup on our apartment patio. Currently, we have a nyjer sock hanging over a platform feeder next to a small tube feeder. With the exception of the nyjer sock, we use Patiowise seed for all our feeders.

Our setup varies with the seasons. Currently it includes: a platform feeder, a large tube feeder, a small tube feeder, and a nyjer sock. Aside from the nyjer sock, we only use Wild Bird Center’s Patiowise bird seed for our platform and tube feeders. We also have a suet feeder, but have not put it up yet for the fall. During the summer, we take down the suet feeder and replace it with a hummingbird feeder. As I mentioned earlier in this post, we have documented almost 30 bird species over the last year, including: goldfinches, Orange-crowned Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Pine Siskins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, and many more.

If you’re interested in starting your own bird feeders but want a setup a little less extensive than ours, then my husband recommends buying one platform feeder and one small tube feeder for the most bang for your buck. The platform feeder will attract a wide diversity of birds, but if larger-bodied birds start to take over (like our swarm of 30+ White-winged Doves) the smaller and more dexterous birds (such as titmice and chickadees) can still visit and feed at the small tube-feeder. Something for everyone. 

Project Feederwatch

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology runs a citizen-science project every year from November to April called Project FeederWatch, where residents of the U.S. and Canada report on birds visiting their yards and feeders. Although it might seem trivial, data from projects like Feederwatch have been invaluable for assessing long-term trends in North American bird populations.

If you are interested, you can read more about FeederWatch on their website.

Not super confident in your bird identifying skills? Not to worry! If you need help identifying birds, there are many resources and apps (such as iNaturalist and Cornell’s “Merlin” app) which are very helpful.

Final Thoughts

I have obviously not addressed everything there is to discuss about bird feeders in this post. If you have additional questions about bird feeders, nonnative birds, squirrels, landscaping for birds, feeder placement, and more you can find more information at Project FeederWatch’s website.

Keep in mind that every setup is different. Even if you use the exact same feeders and seed as me and Tom, you will likely get different results depending on where you live and the surrounding habitat and vegetation. At my last apartment, we only had cardinals and house finches visit our feeder (even though we used the same feeders and seed we do now).

My biggest piece of advice: Be patient. It may take time for birds in your location to discover your feeders and figure out how they work.