Tube Bird Feeders for Beginners

tube bird feeders for beginners
Photo: Don DeBold/Flickr/CC by 2.0

I am out to install a bird feeder in my backyard. I am new to bird feeding, but I’ve been trying to do it for some time now.

From a search online, I learned that the best feeder for beginners is a tube bird feeder. This type of feeder attracts a wide variety of birds and is easy to install and maintain.

I embarked on a quest to learn about tube bird feeders; here, I share what I’ve learned.

One advantage of tube bird feeders is that the seed or content is protected from the elements keeping it dry, clean, and fresh for longer periods of time.

What is a tube bird feeder?

A tube bird feeder is basically a container in the form of a tube with a removable cap and built-in ports that dispense seed for the birds.

All tube bird feeders stand vertically, either hanging from a pole with an arm or mounted on top of a pole.

How does tube bird feeders work?

The way tube feeders work is rather simple and intuitive.

Bird access the seed at the ports, each of which has a perch. Ports are generally located along the bottom half or at the bottom of the tube.

A feeding port is a hole in the tube with a metal insert that has a perch and a small container for the seed.

As the seed is consumed at the ports, more seed replenishes them through gravity. A tube feeder is filled by removing the top cap and pouring the bird food into the tube.

What is the material used for the tube?

Most feeders in the market have a tube piece made of acrylic material or hard clear plastic. The ports and perches are generally made of still. The top and bottom caps are made of plastic or steel. The hanger is always made of still.

There less common tube feeders.

Glass tube feeders have a tray at the bottom of the vertical tube where birds perch. Glass tube feeders do not have ports.

There are also tubes made of metal. The inconvenience is that the content is not visible, and it is hard to tell when to replenish the feeder.

There are many other creative ways of mostly Do-it-Yourself type of tube feeders.

Various forms of clear hard plastic, PVC pipes, and soda bottles have been used to make tube feeders. What is interesting here is that all seem to work!


type of tube feeders
A: Classic tube bird feeder holding mixed seed. This feeder shows metal ports, perches, caps, and trays. B: Tube feeder for Nyjer seeds. Notice that the ports are tiny holes for birds with small and pointy bills, like the Goldfinches here, to access the seed. C: Wire-mesh tube feeder holding sunflower seeds. Birds get the seeds from perches or by clinging on the wire-mesh. Photo Credits: A: Don DeBold, B: Chris Brooks, C: Jannis/Flickr/CC by 2.0.

Tube feeders by size.

Overall, tube feeders can be divided into large and small tube feeders.

  • Small tube feeders have tubes of 2 inches in diameter with small ports and perches. Birds that favor small tube feeders include siskins, chickadees, redpolls, nuthatches, small finches, tit-mice, and some warblers.
  • Large tube feeders have tube pieces of 4 or more inches in diameter with larger ports and perches. Species that favor large tube feeders include jays, sparrows, cardinals, grosbeaks, and blackbirds.

It is interesting to note that all small birds can visit large feeders, but larger birds have more problems fitting in small ports and perches of small feeders and are more discouraged to feed on them.

The overall type of birds you are likely to attract to your backyard depends on the region of the U.S. you are located. The size of the feeder appears to only accommodate or discourage birds by size.

A type of tube feeder for a type of seed.

Tube bird feeders are designed to dispense specific types of seed. Some dispense one type of seed or similar-sized mixes.

Others are designed to dispense tiny seeds such as nyjer or thistle. Others are designed to hold large types of seeds such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pellets.

Tube feeder for wild seeds

The most popular type is a single tube feeder filled with a single type of seed or mixes of similar size seeds.

There are also double or triple-tube feeders. These designs consist of two or three tubes, each holding a different type of seed or seed mix.

A double or triple tube feeder can hold several seed types and mixes, attracting a wider variety of birds.

Large feeders generally have a tray at the bottom to help with the spillage and waste.

Feeders for tiny seeds such as Nyjer and thistle are similar to other tube feeders. The only difference is that ports are very narrow to allow birds with thin and pointy bills to access the tiny seeds. Siskins and chickadees favor this type of feeder.

Interestingly, some nyjer feeders have the perch above the port. This perch placement is suitable for birds that commonly feed upside down, such as siskins and chickadees.

Wire mesh feeders with mesh holes of different sizes hold peanuts and sunflower seeds. Birds access the seeds by clinging to the wire to obtain the content.

A problem with tube bird feeders.

Tube feeders have ports built-in along the bottom half of the tube. Often, the bottom-most port is located 1 to 1.5 inches above the bottom of the feeder. Seed between the bottom port and base of the tube is no consumed and accumulates there, favoring bacteria and fungus growth potentially detrimental to the birds.

A practical solution for this is to fill up the portion between the bottom-most port and the bottom of the tube with foam or similar material. This will ensure that all the seed is consumed.

mount a tube bird feeder
Pole with arms and brackets are commonly used to mount a tube bird feeder.

How to mount a Tube Bird Feeder.

Most people mount a feeder using a pole with a single, double, or triple arm depending on the number of feeders they plan to set up. Even though I only wanted to set up one feeder, I bought a pole with two arms in case I change my mind and add another one later.

A steel pole is forced into the ground deep enough to hold the feeder’s weight without tipping over.

One can also use brackets to hang the feeder. Brackets can be screwed-in on existing wooden structures.

They also have poles and arms equipped with a clamp-on device. A tube feeder can be clamped on existing structures and removed to place in another spot in your yard as needed.

Some folks hang the feeder from a tight line between two trees or other structures. This can effectively keep squirrels away from the feeders when placed 5 or more feet above the ground and far enough away from places squirrels can use to jump onto the feeder.

caged tube feeder
Red-breasted Nuthatch in a caged tube bird feeder. Photo: Leroy Andersen/Flickr/CC by 2.0.

Excluding some birds from accessing the feeder.

Some tube feeders are inside a cage or a protective wire mesh of varying sizes. The cage’s purpose is to allow small birds access to the seed while keeping larger ones unable to fit through the wire-mesh.

Birds such as rock pigeons, starlings, grackles, and crows usually come in flocks and can finish the food in the feeder in a short period of time. Larger birds also bully and exclude smaller and less aggressive birds from accessing the feeder.

Caged feeders are also useful in keeping squirrels away from the seeds in the tube.

Squirrel-proof tube feeders.

Almost everyone who feeds birds has problems with squirrels!

They may be cute, but once they find your feeder, they basically park in your yard and eat the birdseed all-the-time. The feeders are meant to enjoy birds.

So what to do about that.

The most effective way to keep squirrels away is to have a caged tube feeder. This is the simplest type of feeder that allows small birds into the cage and seed but keeps squirrels outside.

The problem with cage feeders is that they also keep Blue Jays, some Woodpeckers, and even Cardinals from entering the cage. Larger holes in the cage would allow larger birds as well as squirrels.

Weight mechanisms

Some tube feeders use a squirrel’s weight to shut down the ports or a spinning mechanism when a squirrel gets on the feeder’s perch. These mechanisms are adjusted to activate only on the approximate squirrel’s weight, not affecting the lighter weight birds.

  • Shutdown Mechanism: The weight of the squirrel automatically shuts down the ports and access to the seeds. When the squirrel leaves the feeder, the ports return to normal and open up.
  • Spinning Mechanism: The weight of the squirrel activates a battery-operated spinning of the perch. The spinning continues until the weight is no longer there. The weight of even multiple birds of the feeder’s perch will not activate the spinning mechanism. A squirrel weighs approximately 28.5 oz on average, while a cardinal 1.5 oz and an American Robin 2.7 oz.

Related: Essential Bird Feeding Tips.


This article provides essential information for someone who is planning on starting to feed birds in a backyard. The article provides a basic understanding of tube feeder sizes, types, the birds they are suitable for, and potential problems. Hopefully, this information will help you navigate through the wide variety of tube feeders when you are ready to obtain one.

Let us know if you have questions or concerns about tube bird feeders!