Feeders are an excellent way to entice birds into your backyard space. However, there are several mistakes you might be making regarding feeder type, location, and contents. These mistakes result in the attraction of only certain birds at best. Otherwise, you may find that no birds visit your feeder at all.
In worst cases, improper feeder care may harbor and spread disease, which negatively affects the health of your entire backyard bird population.
Here are the 7 most common reasons you may be noticing a decline in bird traffic around your backyard feeder:
1. Lack of Variety
It is important to note that different birds have different feeding styles and diet preferences. There is a multitude of various style bird feeders that are enticing to certain kinds of winged beauties. Determine which birds visit your area the most and select the appropriate types of feeder:
- Tube bird feeders attract small varieties of birds, such as sparrows and chickadees.
- Nyjer bird feeders filled with nyjer seeds are loved by finches, mourning doves, and dark-eyed juncos.
- Suet bird feeders are adored by woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens.
- Platform or tray feeders entice a multitude of different-sized birds but may also be accessible to squirrels and other backyard creatures looking for an easy snack. It is best to use a baffle and dome to protect your birds feeding on a platform or tray.
- Use a mesh sock feeder with thistle or nyjer seeds to attract goldfinches.
- Nectar feeders are great for hummingbirds who also feed on nectar-rich flowering plants.
- Mealworm dishes entice bluebirds, chickadees, and thrushes, among many other types of birds.
- Orioles, gray catbirds, American robins, yellow-rumped warblers, and northern mockingbirds love jelly feeders.
- Fruit feeders filled with raisins, currants, dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries attract mockingbirds, bluebirds, catbirds, and waxwings.
Look into the types of birds that may pay a visit to your backyard space and select feeders to entice a variety.
2. Wrong Location
Providing a safe space for your feeder is crucial for enticing birds. Remember that vulnerable feeding birds are constantly in need of a quick get-a-way from any predators in your backyard. While you want to make your feeder visible, placing it in a quiet area away from the car and human traffic is highly recommended. Avoid any noisy location close to wind chimes, garage doors, or child playsets.
Look to provide ample shelter for your feeding birds. Hanging a bird feeder near a tree or bushy shrub creates a visible hotspot close to natural sources of protection. Ensure the branch you choose is not too sturdy to make a good climbing spot for outdoor cats!
Deer, squirrels, rats, and even bears may go after your bird feeder contents so keep these creatures in mind when locating your feeder.
3. Improper Cleaning Routine
Failure to comply with a regular feeder cleaning schedule is another common mistake. Clean your feeder thoroughly and consistently to keep your backyard birds happy and healthy. The removal of bacteria and mold build-up prevents the spread of disease through bird populations.
Weekly cleaning is ideal, especially for nectar-feeders, which grow mold and bacteria easily in their sugar-water contents. Pay attention when your solution appears cloudy, then thoroughly clean your nectar-feeder with diluted bleach or vinegar mix.
If cleaning your feeders once per week is not feasible, aim for every two weeks; waiting no longer than once per month. Choose a feeder with ports that easily come apart for cleaning ease. Use hot water and scrub with soap before thoroughly rinsing. Allow your feeder to dry completely before refilling.
The importance of cleaning under your feeder is commonly forgotten by many gardeners. An array of seeds that have fallen from the feeder attract rats and other rodents to the area. Use a seed tray to prevent buildup under your feeder, and sweep regularly!
4. Forgetting Winter Birds
A common bird feeding mistake is to ignore the lovely winter birds who may pass through your yard. At this time, winter feeders are even more crucial for providing nutrients for these species and their hatchlings.
By providing a feeder during the winter, you attract many different birds you won’t commonly see in the summertime. These include cardinals, bluejays, black-capped chickadees, American goldfinches, mourning doves, American robins, and Anna’s hummingbirds. These guys will greatly appreciate a winter pick-me-up!
5. Ignoring Hydration Needs
Along with forgetting winter birds, ignoring your birds’ hydration needs year-round is another common feeding mistake. Birds not only appreciate a drink but are tempted by reflecting sunlight and the trickling noise of running water. The best way to provide your birds with a much-needed drink is with a birdbath or fountain. However, you can also place a shallow dish of water near a feeder as an economical option.
Allow for drinking and bathing ease with shallow water no deeper than 3 inches. Change your water every 2 to 4 days to prevent pests and mosquitoes from taking over. Thoroughly clean your water feature with diluted vinegar at every water change if possible!
Come wintertime, install a heater in your birdbath to prevent ice build-up. Remember, your winter birds need hydration too!
6. Wrong Filler
The quality and freshness of the food you provide in your bird feeder are critical for attraction as well as your birds’ health. If you notice a ton of mess under your feeder, it could be because your birds are picking through the seed and not finding anything they like.
Low-quality birdseed containing fillers such as cracked corn, milo, oats, and wheat are not a great feed option. This mix generally gets sifted through before being rejected by picky birds. Therefore, invest in no-waste bird seed mixes containing ingredients that most birds love. These include mixes of sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and peanuts.
Bread products should never be offered exclusively to birds, as they do not provide the adequate nutrition needed by a bird of any age. Though breaking off breadcrumbs and scattering them about may seem like a romantic bird feeding scenario, this type of feeding should only be done occasionally as a special treat.
Fill a hummingbird feeder with a ratio of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Using honey, brown sugar, fruit juices, or any kind of artificial sweetener is not recommended for hummingbirds as they do not provide the proper sugar concentration. These substances are also notorious mold-growers!
Finally, ensure you are storing your seed properly to avoid serving spoiled food in your feeders. Dried-out seed is less nutritious than fresh and will be passed over by most birds. Alternatively, the damp seed produces mold and bacteria and may entice rodents and pests to your stores.
Birds are constantly searching for reliable food sources. Therefore leaving your feeding empty for a few days may be fine, but you don’t want to leave it dry for long. You won’t attract birds with an empty container, and you certainly won’t keep them coming back!
7. Ignoring Natural Food Sources
Remember that birds are important pollinators who help keep your entire garden healthy and prosperous! Fruit-bearing trees and nectar-rich flowers create a pollinator-friendly environment that birds love. Relying exclusively on bird feeders is not a great idea, as you are not promoting your garden’s evolution. You may also be spending more money than you need to!
Keeping your garden natural without the use of harmful pesticides is also great for the birds. This allows them to feed on roaming bugs, without being exposed to harmful chemicals. Encourage the natural ecosystem of your garden to thrive; creating a friendly environment for visiting birds year-round!
To Sum It Up
Feeder type, location, and content are the keys to success. As is providing food and hydration for birds year-round. Don’t skimp on the quality of ingredients. It creates a mess as birds dig through the low-quality feed which ends up wasted on the ground! Store your birdseed properly and clean your bird feeders regularly to ensure they are being revisited by happy, healthy birds!