Very important: 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.
Important Note: Songbirds visiting rollerfeeder. 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 More Below
Top Reasons for No or Slow Bird Activity
Also See Wild-Birds Unlimited “Why arent’ the birds eating at my feeder ” or no birds at feeder #2 & #6
Poor 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. Keep seed fresh, sometimes if birds don’t find or use a new feeder sunflower can go rancid in some environments in a couple weeks and birds will not feed due to the seed, you can fill half full at a time also to keep it fresh. 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 above in bulk.
Feeder 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 feeders first.
Feeder 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
Neighbor’s 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 natural food.
The Time it Takes to find and Adjust to a new feeder: This really isn’t a reason but a studied fact by Universities – it takes birds a while to “Acclimate” to a new feeder. Good results takes a combination following good bird feeding tips and a lot of patience depending on your environment. 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.
Older 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. Place the new feeder next to the older feeder and let them go dry so they will seek a new food supply. Also if it is a replacement the same thing applies – birds need time to adjust to the new item in the yard.
Natural 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.
Predators 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.
Bird Feeding Environment: Living in a location that accommodates birds natural habitat is important. The best environments includes an abundance of trees (pine and deciduous), shrubs, water, natural food supply and other conditions that allow birds to thrive. Some areas like new developments that were previously farm fields with few trees will not have the birds like established neighborhoods with old tree growth and an abundance of bird habitat.
Birds going to Existing Feeders
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 feeder.
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
Place tin foil by or above feeder.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.
Location & Habitat, Traffic/Noise
The location 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 open 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 Feeder
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.
Great Bird Seed Mix
Chickadees – Cardinal size songbirds and woodpeckers too.
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 location.
Neighbors competing 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 page.
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.
Feed 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.
Clean 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 birdseed.
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.
Environmental conditions & feeding birds.
Environment – Listed below are some conditions that may impact birds visiting your feeders.
- Residence location, rural or urban/suburban.
- Surrounding habitat.
- Rain & wind.
- Rapid climate changes.
- Nesting season.
- Water supply.
- Time of day.
- Feeder sanitation.
- Competing food sources.
- Population density (bird and people density).
- Natural feeding habits.
Wilderness/Rural 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, etc.
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 unusual.
Sporadic 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.
Restrictive 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 starting out than open feeders but increases over time. Overall quality of desirable songbirds visiting the feeder is greater, and problems are greatly reduced.