Tray (Platform) Bird Feeder: Types & how it works

tray bird feederPhoto: Patricia Price/Flickr/CC by 2.0

A tray or platform bird feeder is the simplest and more versatile of all bird feeders. It consists of a square or rectangular platform (base) with side pieces to prevent the birdseed from spilling over.

A tray feeder is known as a non-exclusive feeder. Unlike tube and hopper feeders, a tray feeder is just a platform without feeding ports or shapes that may intimidate shy species or where birds have to figure out how to get to the seed.

A tray feeder is ideal for someone who is starting to feed birds at home. It can be placed anywhere, including the ground, and are easy to refill.

In this article, I describe tray or platform bird feeders, types, how they work, and the pros and cons of having one.

What is a tray or platform bird feeder, and how it works?

A tray bird feeder is the simplest of all bird feeders. It consists of a square or rectangular base with sides at the edges to prevent the birdseed from spilling over.

Birdseed is directly filled into the tray and is visible to the birds.

Tray bird feeders are the least exclusive. Other types of bird feeders have shapes and feeding ports of different sizes where birds have to figure out how to obtain the food and allow only specific bird sizes and bill shapes.

A tray or platform resembles an open space on the ground, something birds, mainly ground-feeding birds, are used to feed on regularly.

Is a tray bird feeder the right choice for a beginner?

Feeding birds can be as simple as sprinkling birdseed on the ground consistently. Birds will find the seed put out for them, and if they feel it is safe to return, they will.

The second easy way to feed birds is by using a tray of a platform bird feeder. This feeder has the most straightforward design, is easy to refill, and attracts a wide variety of birds that include ground feeders and those that feed on the trees.

For tray feeders that do not have protection against rain and snow, it is recommended to offer an amount of birdseed consumed in one day or two. Soaked birdseed can develop fungus that may harm the birds.

Some platform feeders have a bottom tray made of a plastic or metal screen that prevents water from accumulating in the tray and spoil the birdseed.

tray-platform bird feeders
Tray/platform bird feeders come in different sizes and shapes. They can be hung, kept as a table-like, set on or near the ground, or attach to a window.

Types of tray/platform bird feeders.

There are several types of tray or platform bird feeders, all of which use the same idea of having a baseboard or base screen with sides to contain the bird food from spilling over.

The majority of tray feeders are made with wood, but others are made of plastic or a combination of wood and other material. Some are made with recycled plastic.

Prices vary with the size, design, and material used to make the feeder.

Some tray feeders have a bottom made of wire netting or plastic screen to prevent water accumulation and filter residues.

Others have wire netting on top, covering the birdseed but allowing birds access to the seeds while preventing squirrels from eating it.

How long does it take for birds to find my tray feeder?

Birds can take from a few days to months to find a bird feeder. The type of feeder can undoubtedly have to do with it.

Unlike other bird feeders, where the content is not readily visible, a tray feeder has the content exposed and readily seen by the birds.

Food in an open view alone makes a tray feeder readily found by the birds, but there other factors.

The time it takes for birds to find a feeder also depends on the habitat type around your yard.

Feeders at yards surrounded by plenty of woods have higher chances to be found just because a greater bird diversity inhabits woodland habitats.

More birds of different species are more likely to find a feeder and the food offered to them.

Conversely, feeders placed in treeless neighborhoods have a lower bird diversity and generally takes longer for birds to find the feeder.

Birds that visit feeders find their food by sight. If the feeder is well-exposed and readily visible, birds nearly always find the feeder sooner.

Once a single bird finds the feeder, more individuals of the same species are likely to start visiting the feeder.

Over time, several species of birds will make your feeder a routine stop of their daily search for food.

Related: Tube Bird Feeders for Beginners

What are the pros and cons of a tray bird feeder?

Tray/platform bird feeders have advantages and disadvantages.


  • Tray feeders are known as non-exclusive feeders. Its simple design and presentation of the food do not restrict birds of specific sizes and bill shapes, like other bird feeders.
  • They are versatile and can be mounted on existing structures, a window, hanging from a pole, and on or near the ground.
  • Platform/tray feeders can hold any bird food, including birdseed, fruit, peanuts in a shell, mealworms, and any other item one would want to offer to birds.
  • Easy to maintain and clean up. Some flip the feeder over and shake off the leftover food or hose down and scrub food that sticks to the feeder.
  • Easy to make.


  • Most tray feeders do not have a cover and use plywood as a bottom board. Rain and snow are likely to soak the bird food and result in fungal growth potentially harmful to birds. Some tray feeders have a screen bottom that helps drain the water or a cover to keep rain or snow from falling in the tray.
  • Birds perch and move on the feeder, depositing droppings that soil the food and feeder. Droppings mixed with the birdseed could help transmit diseases among birds.
  • Tray feeders offer easy access to the birds and squirrels, and chipmunks also take advantage of it. A platform feeder may experience the worse squirrel and chipmunk problems unless a baffle is mounted on the pole holding the feeder.

What birds can I attract with a tray bird feeder?

Tray/platform bird feeders attract the highest bird diversity.

Data obtained from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology indicates that 98 species of birds visit feeders across North America. This number includes hummingbirds.

Of the 98 species, 88 or 88.8% visit tray bird feeders.

The number of species that visit feeders varies according to the habitat and regional bird diversity. A higher number of bird species visit feeders around wooded areas with a greater bird diversity.

Tray feeders attract birds that regularly feed on the ground, such as Pigeons, doves, juncos, and sparrows. Other birds such as blue jays, cardinals, woodpecker, grackles, goldfinches, siskins, wrens, buntings, warblers, nuthatches feel comfortable visiting tray feeders.

Parts of a tray/platform bird feeder.

parts of a tray bird feeder


Best place to mount a platform bird feeder.

A platform feeder can be placed anywhere you want. You can be creative. However, there are a few things to consider.

Protecting the birds from attacks by domestic cats and hawks.

People who have been feeding birds for years recommend mounting platform bird feeders, or any other type of bird feeder, at least 16 feet from trees or bushes.

Sixteen feet is wide enough to allow birds to see the surroundings and react to an incoming hawk’s attack.

Sixteen feet is also wide enough to prevent domestic cats from hiding and launching an attack on the birds.

While sixteen feet from trees and bushes are ideal for protecting the birds, shy species such as buntings and wrens find it difficult to venture out in the open.  These birds do well at feeders much closer to bushes, but one must ensure that cats are not a problem.

The feeder should be placed on bare ground or short mowed grass to prevent cats from hiding near the feeder.

Tray feeders can be installed at any height from the ground. Some set a tray feeder below a hanging tube or hopper feeder. The purpose of the feeder, in this case, is to collect the seed dropped by other birds so they are still available to birds that are more comfortable feeding on or near the ground.

Related: Hopper Bird Feeders: Types and How it Works.


platform bird feeder


Make it visible from where you can enjoy the birds.

Pick a spot in your yard that allows an easy and unobstructed view of the feeder. A location you can see through a kitchen window or from a place you often spend time relaxing would be ideal.

Being able to see the feeder easily and often will not only enhance your enjoyment of the birds but also alert you when the feeder has run out of food and needs a refill.

Final Remarks:

A tray bird feeder is one of the most commonly used feeders. The way that these feeder works is simple. Birdseed is poured on an open platform for the birds to consume.

Regarding preference by the birds, tray bird feeders attract the highest bird diversity than other feeders.

Tray or platform feeders are an excellent choice for beginner bird enthusiasts. They are a non-exclusive type of feeder. Its simple design does not prevent birds of specific sizes and bill shapes from accessing the food on a feeder.

When placed at the right spot in your yard, one can enjoy birds on a platform feeder from the comfort of your home.


1 thought on “Tray (Platform) Bird Feeder: Types & how it works”

  1. The squirrels DO NOT like GOLDEN Safflower seed. This food works great in this type of feeder. Chickadees, Nut Hatches and finches like it! Be sure to use the GOLDEN, not white safflower. The squirrels will eat white safflower. I have been using it for 10 years successfully! Typically found in your specialty bird shops, not at the big box stores. A little bit more expensive but well worth it!

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