One of the best ways to attract birds to your backyard is by setting up a bird feeder. However, it’s frustrating when birds don’t seem to be interested in the food and feeders you put out. What gives?
If you’re experiencing this problem, there are several reasons why birds might not be coming to visit your feeder, and in this article, I’m going to highlight six problems you can troubleshoot.
These are a mix of problems I’ve experienced first hand during my years feeding the birds. Trust me, I’ve been there! I also pulled from top birding sources like the Cornell Bird Lab, Wild Birds Unlimited, and the Audubon Society for this article.
I hope they’re a helpful checklist of actions you can explore. Bird feeding is a lot like engineering and chemistry to me, if things aren’t working, you can tinker and add in new ingredients or processes to hope for a better result. That’s part of what makes it so fun!
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1. You Haven’t Waited Long Enough
If you’re getting started with bird feeding, it can take a few days to a few months for birds to find your feeder (Wild Birds Unlimited). Remember to be patient.
When I first got started, it took House Finches more than two weeks to find my bird feeder. Don’t stress about anything else later in the story if you haven’t waited at least a couple weeks for birds to find a feeder.
You can increase your odds of birds finding your feeder faster by placing it in a visible location with shelter nearby, so birds feel safe when eating.
Consider putting a feeder within a few feet of brush, flowers, or a tree in your yard to enhance that sense of security.
Side note: If you’re having trouble with squirrels jumping from trees to a feeder, consider moving it 10 feet away from the nearest perch they can jump from.
Similar to old cartoons, you can also try sprinkling food on the ground near your feeder as a breadcrumbs approach. Draw them in with snacks!
2. Your Feeder Isn’t in a Great Location
I touched on this earlier, but another reason why birds might not be coming to your feeder is because of where you put it.
If the feeder is too close to a high traffic area with a lot of people, not near any shelter, or too high up, birds won’t feel safe enough to use it. Also, if the feeder is too exposed, birds will feel vulnerable to predators.
The key is a balanced approach: Try placing your feeder in an open area, but not too far from trees or bushes where birds can take cover.
3. You Have a Dirty Bird Feeder
Birds might not come to your feeder because it’s dirty. You wouldn’t want to go eat dinner at your friends house if they served you a meal on a dirty plate, right?
A dirty bird feeder can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, which is harmful to birds. Be sure to clean your feeder every few weeks at minimum, especially during warmer months when bacteria can grow quickly.
Use a mild soap and water to scrub and clean the feeder, and rinse it thoroughly to let it dry completely before refilling it with fresh food. Additionally, it’s a good idea to disinfect your feeder every few weeks with a diluted bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease. I also use disinfecting wipes and wash with water after as a quick approach.
4. You’re Not Putting Out Quality Food
Believe it or not, birds are picky eaters, and they like to have a variety of quality food options. If you’re offering cheap bird seed loaded with fillers (red milo and oats are ingredients to watch out for), you’re reducing the odds of birds taking interest.
To start off, you can’t go wrong with black oil sunflower seeds. It draws in a ton of birds like Cardinals, Finches, Nuthatches, and Chickadees. It’s also relatively affordable.
You can also try offering different types of seeds, fruits, and nuts to attract different types of birds. For example, you might offer thistle seeds for finches, or suet for Woodpeckers and Nuthatches.
It’s like running a buffet. The more options you have, the more you’ll be able to please even the picky eaters out there.
You can read my full bird seed guide here for all the options and what food attracts which birds.
By diversifying your bird feeder menu, you can attract a wider range of bird species to your backyard.
5. You Didn’t Keep Your Feeders Full
Birds are creatures of habit, just like you and I. If you have them visiting regularly but forget to fill your feeders for a few days, the birds will move on to other food sources in a hurry.
Keeping your feeders full goes a long way towards ensuring birds keep coming back to your yard. If you’re leaving town for a while, consider leaving a lot of food out for the birds in a weather-proof bird feeder. Or, have a friend fill your feeders up for you!
6. Natural Food Sources are Abundant
Every year, like clockwork, I get confused when fewer birds visit my feeders in the late-summer and into the fall. This is because natural food sources are plentiful and birds are prioritizing dining on them.
There isn’t much you can fix with this issue. Just take heart that you haven’t done anything wrong and that chances are good that your neighborhood birds will return in the future. Feeders are especially helpful in the other seasons, when natural food becomes more sparse.
I hope this article helped you bring some birds to your feeders. When in doubt: Remember to be patient, as it takes time for the birds to discover a feeder. With a little effort and time, you will soon be rewarded with a backyard full of feathered friends.