Use Whole Sunflower Kernels when starting a new feeder (Whole
sunflower kernels are the inside seed kernel of black oil sunflower and
it is the best seed). After birds start visiting a good seed choice is
black oil sunflower in the shell, safflower seed, and high percentage
of whole sunflower
kernels, see below photo. Use the best seed because you are likely
competing with the neighbors feeders, and birds will highly favor the best meal
choice in the area. Also provide a variety of foods like seed and
suet. Avoid general purpose seed (a.k.a. grocery store seed)
with millet seeds and other cheap fillers mixed in, songbirds prefer higher quality seed, and
the millet will attract Sparrows which will overwhelm the feeding area
and attract large nuisance birds like Blackbirds and Starlings. Mix your Own Bird Seed without
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
using Mixed Bird Seed
We recommend that you avoid commercial mixtures that have a high percentage of less-appealing "filler" seeds, such as red milo. You can create your own seed mixes by combining any number of seeds. Seed mixes are generally
preferred by birds visiting platform feeders. Mixed seed may also be spread on the ground. Try mixes containing millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seed to attract sparrows, juncos, doves, and quail."
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2 - Location: Very important (Tied with Bird Seed):
Avoid wide open areas in your backyard, place your feeder near bushes/deciduous
trees/pine trees/outdoor structures
where birds can escape from predators and preen while they are flying
back and forth from the feeder and safe cover. Place the feeder
in an undisturbed location in your yard away from traffic, noise &
will favor feeders that allow for more cover and a natural environment
over feeders placed out in the middle of the yard with no cover.
= 5 Best Locations for a bird feeder in this landscape plan.
Locating a feeder in the open, or close to the house, or high traffic areas
will likely reduce
bird visits and take considerably longer to attract birds. The tree
in the backyard with an X location should be surrounded by
branches and not too high, see height below.
3 - Height:
Not too high or too low, eye level 5'-6" or a little higher to
maximum is a good rule of thumb.
Big Plus: and another reason for the birds to stick around your
provides an all important need along with bird food. Use heated birdbaths
One of the most important factors is patience.
Depending on your environment (wooded area/no trees/new development etc.)
and other factors mentioned above and below, birds will start using a
new feeder ranging in time from a few days, a few weeks, to a few months or
longer. If the feeder is a
replacement from an older feeder they used to visit, it will still
take time for them to use the new feeder on a regular basis. Wild birds are
creatures of habit and a new item in the yard takes time to
investigate and become familiar with.
When trying to attract wild birds, locating a bird feeder based on where you want to view the birds best might
not be adequate, or it might take a lot longer for them to use the feeder.
Often it takes a great deal of patience and catering to the needs of the
birds using the tips above and below. It's very common to need to
move a feeder if they fail to visit a location wild birds deem undesirable.
Give a good location a minimum of 2-4 weeks before moving. Read
Quality Seed: Cheap seed mixes are packed with a high
percentage of millet, cracked corn, and other fillers that native songbirds
do not like - however it might attract the birds you don't want around
like invasive House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Grackles and other large nuisance
birds. Use only high quality bird seed mentioned above and start
a New Feeder with sunflower kernels/hearts - it will save you in the
long run with quicker starting, higher quality birds, more bird
variety, less mess, and higher bird activity. Switch to the
quality mix mentioned above after your birds are visiting on a regular
basis or stay with sunflower kernels - you won't regret it.
Sunflower kernels can be purchased in bulk in many locations.
in Poor Location: Wide open areas, close to windows, and high traffic areas -
birds will shy away from or take them longer to start using a New
feeder or it will hinder bird activity - if the neighbor's have
feeders with a better location and natural cover they typically will use those
Too High or Too Low: This goes hand-in-hand with
location. Some people hang their feeders from short yard hooks
(designed for plants) and the feeder ends up 2 feet off the ground -
birds don't like this because of predators like cats. Some
hang the feeder 10-15 feet or more high - birds natural feeding habits are
much lower at shrub height or small tree height which is about
eye-level 5-8 feet high. Try to hang less than 10 feet high
Feeders using Higher Quality Bird Seed: If
the neighbors are using high quality seed mentioned above, and you are
not - the birds will simply go to the higher quality food source in
the area and leave the cheaper filler mixes alone. You are
competing with the best food source in the area and that includes
it Takes to find and Adjust to a new feeder: This really
isn't a reason but a fact - it takes birds a while
to "Acclimate" to a new feeder. There are no switches to
turn on your feeder, it takes a combination following good bird
feeding tips and a lot of patience. Sometimes you need to move
the feeder if in a poor location. Birds are creatures of habit
more than most animals and it takes them time to find and trust a new
item in the yard.
Feeders birds have been using for a long time:
For New Feeders, it takes birds much longer to try and use a New
feeder if they have been using older feeders for a long time - this
also falls into the "Creature of Habit" category.
Sometimes you need to let the others go dry so the new one has a
chance for them to use or else they might shy away for a very long
time. Also if it is a replacement the same thing applies - birds
need time to adjust to the new item in the yard.
Food Supply: Birds have been feeding on
natural food supply for thousands of years well before birds feeders
existed - so if there is an abundance of natural food supply this will
typically affect the feeder activity. Even more of a reason to
use quality bird seed.
Nearby: If you have predators in your area
such as cats or hawks nearby and visiting often to your yard, trees,
and feeding station, it will be a life saving deterrent for birds to
stay away. Cats peering through windows next to a feeder will
also have an impact. Hang the feeder close to cover like shrubs
but far enough away where predators can't sneak up and jump at the
birds on the ground or feeder. If your cats, or neighbors cats
roam freely, then they should have a bell attached to their collar to
alarm the feeding songbirds of the cats presence.
If birds are already visiting your existing feeders and shy away from the new one, this is normal due to the fact
birds are extreme creators of habit and will always favor existing feeders they are familiar with, for a long time. Let the older feeders go empty until they find and use the new feeder, then gradually fill the others one at a time.
Letting them go dry will still take time until they acclimate to the new
Another technique you might try is to place the new feeder near the most active existing feeder and fill the new one with the best bird seed (sunflower kernels), then let the old existing feeder go dry.
Remember, birds will always favor the easiest food source, but so will squirrels and large
nuisance birds like blackbirds and starlings.
Old Tin-Foil Trick
Some have said placing a piece of
shiny tin-foil near the feeder, or above the feeder, has helped their
birds find and use a new feeder quicker. Give it a try, we support any tip or trick that might be helpful.
If your new feeder is a replacement for an older feeder birds used to visit for a long time (years), don’t expect the birds to warm up to the new feeder right away, it can still take several weeks or months for them to investigate, become familiar with, and trust the new feeder as a safe source of bird seed. The old feeder
took a long time for them to adjust to, and was a safe and familiar source of seed for them. The new one will take
just as much time & patience for them to adjust, be sure to follow good bird feeding tips.
of your bird feeder and surrounding habitat is very important - hang or mount your feeder near tree or shrub
alcove areas that provide cover. Near pine trees is a good choice if available
because they provide a thick & safe hideout from predators. Keep a
little distance from the cover so cats can't sneak up on the feeders. If trees
or shrubbery are not available, a good alternative is landscaping structures
or other structures on your property like arbors, fencing, structural
overhangs etc. Avoid wide
areas where birds are exposed to flying predators, and partially shaded
or shaded areas are generally better than full sun - it reinforces nearby
cover and the temperature more moderate.
The location should also
avoid high traffic & noisy areas by pedestrians, autos, dogs, and
other disturbances that occur on a regular basis. Too close to large
windows can also be distracting or alarming to birds from the inside
movement of people. Locate them in the quiet place in your yard.
Use black oil sunflower
seed or high quality mixed bird seed containing 80-95% black oil seed.
Sunflower is native songbirds favorite seed. Avoid cheap grocery store seed
containing mostly millet (used as a filler) as it will attract undesirable birds like house sparrows
and blackbirds or be thrown out as waste by songbirds. To improve
bird activity, mix in 25%-50% sunflower kernels (shelled sunflower),
which is birds favorite & easiest meal. There is less waste with sunflower kernels as well.
Bird Seed New
If the feeder is new,
use 100% whole sunflower kernels mentioned above
to give the feeder a "kick-start". It takes time
(ranging from a couple weeks to couple months) for
birds to acclimate to a new feeder and sunflower kernels will help
greatly. Sunflower kernels are more expensive per pound but attract
the widest variety of songbirds...then after a while gradually change the mix if desirable. It
can be found at most stores that carry birdseed.
A great overall bird
seed mix is 15-20% Black oil sunflower, 65-70% sunflower hearts, 10% safflower
seed, and 5% peanut parts. Try it, the birds will love it.
Avoid hanging your feeders
low to the ground, eye level or above is a good rule of thumb - birds are
cautious of feeding too low because of predators like cats jumping up.
Also, the flying approach to the feeder is much more amiable to the birds at a
medium to higher level.
Many pole hooks on the
market are designed for hanging plants, the height of plant hooks
are typically too short for hanging bird feeders because, as mentioned
above, birds prefer feeding higher up to avoid predators and the approach
to the feeder is easier. There are poles on the market designed for
bird feeders that are higher and the hooks extend further away from the
pole than plant hooks.
Supply water nearby if
possible - bird baths, drippers, heated bird baths in winter, self made ponds etc. If birds have a reliable
source of water year round, it is all the more reason for them to visit & stay in your
feeders can often affect your feeders activity and how long it takes for them to
find/use a new feeder, and if the bird seed choice (dinner) is better at
the neighbors, the birds will likely be eating there as a first choice.
Use high quality bird seed as mentioned above
It is very important to
be patient, bird feeding
has many environmental factors associated with it that can't be
forced. In the spring birds are mating/nesting & searching out natural
food sources. Migration & inclement weather are also factors, amongst
many other factors outside your control. It may take trying a new location, a richer seed mix,
putting a water source near the feeder, and other tips noted on this
If you have several feeders, spread them
throughout your yard apart from each other, or in small groups of 2 or
3. By spreading the feeders
out in your yard, you will likely experience birds souring from one
location to the other instead of possibly overloading in one location.
birds all year long. Many people feed birds in the fall
and winter then stop. You will be surprised at how many birds
visit feeders during the summer season. If you feed them all year, the
birds will identify your area as being a reliable source of food and
the number and occurrences of native songbirds will increase.
your feeder at least 2 times a year. We recommend in the
late Fall before winter and in the Spring. A clean feeder will
help prevent any bird diseases and keep them coming back for fresh
An investment in
quality feeders that are well thought out and designed for
specific kinds of birds will provide years of bird feeding enjoyment
with a long term perspective. It will also save you time, money,
and possibly a lot of frustration by minimizing or eliminating
the nuisance elements that can be associated with feeding birds.
- Listed below are some conditions that may impact birds visiting your
location, rural or urban/suburban.
Time of day.
(bird and people density).
Areas - Rural areas
typically have the highest feeder activity in one location because there are less feeders
to choose from in the area, especially in colder months when natural food is in low
supply. However, in warmer months when natural food supply is
plentiful, this will impact even high bird density areas. Birds will
often pick buds and plant seeds in the spring, bugs in the summer, and
berries in the fall. We recommend keeping seed in the feeder all year
so they can rely on a food source keeping them coming back.
Urban High Population
- Higher human
density locations with more feeders typically have less habitat for birds, and more
feeders - which will affect how many birds visit your area.
Again the type of food you offer will affect your feeders activity - you
are essentially competing with a natural food supply and the neighbors
feeders which might offer more variety of and higher quality food, better
habitat for nesting, hideouts from predators, a supply of water,
3 Times a Day
- Birds generally
feed 3 times per day - morning, midday, and early evening - the rest of
the time feeders are typically inactive or slow at best. If your feeders
are active throughout the day, consider yourself fortunate as it is highly
Feeding - No one really knows why but birds can be highly active at
feeders one day and
nowhere to be found the next, or sometimes quit feeding for long periods
of time, a week or 2 or more. Theories range from temperature
changes, nesting season, changing seasons, migration, and unsanitary feeding
stations to name a few. If you have them visiting your feeders on a regular basis
and they suddenly disappear don't be alarmed, they will return
in a reasonable time and the reason is usually something out of your control. Make
sure your feeders are clean with fresh food.
Open Design vs.
More Restrictive Feeders. Open feeders will usually garner more bird activity as birds typically favor the easiest food
source. However, open feeders also gain the most attention from
feeder pests like squirrels, raccoons, and larger nuisance
birds like starlings, blackbirds, grackles, and aggressive jays that
pilfer the seed and keep away desirable songbirds. Open feeders also tend to be less weather
resistant and spill easier when a jumping squirrel lands on it.
feeders typically allow a select group of bird sizes in to feed while keeping out
most if not all the nuisance elements. Bird activity is generally
less than open feeders, but overall quality of desirable songbirds visiting
the feeder is greater, and problems are greatly reduced.