How Do Birds Find Bird Feeders?

Hanging bird feeders in your yard or balcony is a great way to engage in some bird watching, amp up the exterior décor, and feed your new feathered friends.

When we look at how birds find bird feeders, some important factors at play determine the likelihood of these creatures stumbling on your construction.

brown bird on red wooden bird house

Quick Answer

The main method birds use to find bird feeders in their local area is by using their sharp vision to detect the placement of bird feeders. Once they’ve established a feeding ground with a consistent supply of food, they breed around the area and make nests close to the feeders that are set up.

Let us now dive into the details of how birds find the food source you’ve laid out for them.

Common Ways Birds Locate Bird Feeders

Most people who like observing nature in their gardens quickly find that a single bird feeder is usually not enough to attract all sorts of birds to your area.

Birds can be picky eaters, and most have different preferences for seeds, insects, and fruits.

Eagles are predatory and hunt small animals like rabbits, birds, and snakes. Kites, belonging to a similar family, are scavengers that will eat anything, dead or alive.

Koel birds belong to the family of cuckoos and can be found pecking their way into particularly ripe papayas hanging from a tree.

  • Crows, like kites, are scavengers but have fairly complex group dynamics, which they use to their advantage to find food and prey on other birds.

A healthy ecosystem consists of many birds co-inhabiting an area and fighting for resources.

Survival is the main instinct for all creatures, and if you start providing a consistent source of food in your backyard, chances are pretty good that you’ll start getting regular visits from all sorts of animals.

It may take some time for birds to find your feeder, from a couple of hours to many months. This depends on several factors, such as how visible the food is, the location of the feeder, whether it’s in an open or closed area, how close it is to their nest, what kind of feeder it is, what sources of food are available, safety from predators, among others.

Let us explore these factors in some detail.

  1. Visibility. Birds lack a sense of smell, but their hearing and sight are unparalleled. If they see your feeder and the food source in it, they will approach it straight away. They might wait until it’s safe to do so, but they can usually tell from far away whether something seems edible and therefore worth exploring.
  2. Placement of the feeder. The location of the feeder plays a big role in inviting birds to come and check it out. If the feeder is in an open area, birds may be wary because predators may swoop down and attack them. Their survival depends on being aware of their surroundings, and therefore your best option may be to hang the feeders in a closed area, which provides protection and safety. Your best bet would be to find their nesting areas and hang a feeder close by.
  3. Quantity of feeders. A good way to invite various birds to your garden may be to hang numerous feeders with different types of seeds as food sources. Different birds have different food preferences, and you’ll find that using blends of different seeds in each feeder will attract a certain bird species. Some birds are shy, and the presence of others may discourage them from visiting, so be sure to keep that in mind when considering placement and types of food in your garden or balcony.
  4. Changing the location of feeders. It can be difficult to move an existing feeder to a different location because birds might get accustomed to feeding in a specific location and might stop visiting if you change locations. However, if they are already there and they’ve become used to your presence, they may watch you move it and start feeding in the new location. A good rule of thumb is to move it slowly, a few yards at a time.
  5. Type of Feeder. Which type of feeder it is can also determine if birds will want to visit. Different feeders are constructed with certain birds in mind, and you must be mindful about what kind of birds reside in your local area and which design to opt for.
  6. Source of food. Some seeds are particularly appetizing to certain kinds of birds, while others are unappealing and may deter them from approaching. Researching the right blends or opting for an alternative option such as naturally occurring whole foods like full-shelled peanuts and berries will ensure that you do not accidentally discriminate between types of birds and attract only a select few.

Why Am I Attracting Rodents to My Bird Feeder

If you’re wondering why you’re attracting rodents, it’s probably because there’s a spillage of seeds on the ground from the bird feeders.

Rodents prowl around after dark because the low visibility keeps predators at bay, although there are still some nocturnal predators like owls hoping for a midnight snack.

If you opt for certain bird feeder designs like open platform feeders or ones with large platform trays, you might find rats and mice climbing your feeders to get at the food source.

Your best bet would be to install a metal pole upon which you install the bird feeder to ensure a slippery surface, which would prevent rodents from climbing into the bird feeders.

An alternative option would be to use a different food source that is unappealing to rodents and therefore keep them away from the bird feeders.

It is best to keep rodents away from your food source because once they establish a consistent food source, they can breed very quickly, and you might stumble onto a rodent nest in your garden or shed.

Types of Bird Feeders

There are different types of bird feeders available, which will attract different birds to your garden. Picking the one that’s best for you is dependent on personal choice and knowledge of the kinds of birds that live near your area of residence.

Window feeders: Window feeders attach onto windows via suction cups and are suitable for attracting smaller birds. Window feeders appeal to bird watchers who enjoy watching birds up close and personal, making it easier to observe them in their natural habitats.

Tube feeders: Tube feeders make use of hollow tubes that include metal feeding ports and are an ideal feeding station for tiny birds like sparrows and chickadees. Despite being fairly rodent-proof, these are sometimes gnawed into by hungry rodents who find a way into these structures.

Suet feeders: Suet feeders are constructed using wire mesh and are attached or nailed onto a tree. They invite woodpeckers and chickadees and have open bottoms, which forces birds to assume an inverted position to reach the food source.

Different Food Options

If you do not want to invest in different bird feeders, it may be suitable for you to switch to a different food option that does not produce any waste.

Switching to no-waste feed: Birds are messy eaters and therefore may require the need for no-waste feed to avoid a mess of seed waste under the feeders, which can invite rodents in for a snack.

Natural Foods: Switching to natural foods is a good alternative because birds can swallow food whole, ensuring no residual waste is left behind, which might invite other animals to come and munch on the feast. Naturally occurring sources include caterpillars, worms, nuts, and berries.

Different food options: You can opt to buy seed bags from any bird store, which have different compositions, and invite many types of birds to come and visit your bird feeder. Other bird feed includes mixed seeds, peanuts, jam, millet, and almond bits.

What if Birds Don’t Eat The Seeds

If the seeds you’ve left out have become soggy or stale, it stands to reason that birds will no longer find them appealing.

Seeds left out for too long can rot and quickly turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

Birds are picky eaters, and you should therefore make sure to clean up your bird feed every other day and replace the food source once it starts to go bad when exposed to the weather.

Goldfinches love nyjer seeds but become easily deterred when conditions become unhygienic.

Common Bird Feeding Mistakes

When trying to invite birds to your garden, it is important to ensure you don’t drive birds away or make your bird feeder unappealing by making these simple mistakes that are easily avoidable.

    1. Using artificial sweeteners for hummingbird nectar. Using artificial sweeteners or honey for making hummingbird nectar is a bad idea because they don’t provide the right concentration of sweetness and can quickly turn moldy.
    2. Ignoring natural food sources. You don’t have to buy the most expensive feeders and seed blends to attract birds to your garden. You can opt for natural food sources like groundnuts, which are highly nutritious.
  1. Using bread as bird feed. Contrary to popular belief, bread is not nutritious for birds, especially as a food source for hatchlings. It is heavily processed and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

Importance of Bird Feeding

There is a big ecological effect of human intervention on the environment. By providing sustenance for birds, we ensure higher bird populations, enable reproduction, and influence birds’ behaviors and migratory habits.

Birds generally migrate in the winter because of a lack of available resources in the area, and by leaving feeders and birdbaths out in the winter, the birds in the area no longer have a reason to change locations.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a nature enthusiast, it is certainly appealing to want to improve the diversity of birds in the area.

Birds that are moving to different locations because of predators and lack of certain foods, like parrots or parakeets, might find a reason to stick around if you cater to their food choices.

By providing different food options for other birds, you can prevent the dwindling of their populations and play your part in positively impacting the ecosystem.