Do Birds Find Bird Feeders: You Can Help!

Do Birds Find Bird Feeders: You Can Help!

How do birds find bird feeders?  Can they find them on their own?  Oh, yes!  However, I’ve found there are ways we will can help our birds find the food more quickly.

Because the birds find the feeders faster with our help, we quickly have the fun of watching them at our backyard feeders.  As we watch birds swoop down to get a nut, we can relish seeing multiple types of birds at the feeders daily.  I truly delight in watching a number of different birds at my bird feeders.

Let Me See the Food!

Birds have great vision, but not so much a sense of smell, so they depend on their sight to find food.  Put the bird feeders where they can see them. Birds fly around the area of their domain constantly looking for food. Birds eat 10% to 30% of their weight, and sometimes even more, in food daily.  That means they are constantly looking for a source of food.

It’s my experience that, once you have birds at your bird feeders, other birds will join them there.  Mercedes R. Lackey, degreed in biology and ethology from Purdue, stated on Quora How Do Birds Find A New Bird Feeder? that:

 

“Birds that do not flock watch for the sight of other birds congregating, or diving out of the air or trees, and investigate that for a new food source.”

Do birds find bird feeders?  Keep the feeder brimming with food and in sight of flight, and as a result, your birds will find it.

A Finch Story

Do Birds Find Bird Feeders - My Bird Feeding Station
My Bird Feeding Station with a Thistle Sock Feeder Viewed From my Breakfast Room Window

Birds often take two weeks to get comfortable with a new feeder before they will eat there.  I recently hung a thistle sock for my many house finches on my kitchen window feed station.  I was so disappointed the finches did not take to it.  After about two weeks, I was thinking about taking the sock down as a lost cause.

Do birds find bird feeders?  These finches found the thistle feeder sock.   Finally, I noticed one finch on the sock, pecking at the thistle inside!  I was thrilled the next day to see there were several finches taking turns at the sock feeder.  Even a mockingbird decided to give it a try – but only once!  That was a surprise!

Is This a Safe Place for Dinner?

Birds will be more likely to visit a feeder if they feel safe there.  I am always aware of possible predators when I put up a bird feeder.  Two common predators of birds are cats and hawks.

Do Birds Find Bird Feeders - When They Feel Safe They Will
Hopper Feeder
Hung From a Tree Limb To Provide Coverage

Hawks

Hawks swoop down from above and target birds to be their next meal. A feeding station can be just too much for a Hawk to resist.  The feeder birds will need somewhere to flee.  In the Birds and Blooms blog  Top 10 Tips to Attract Birds to Your Feeders, Catherine Voss suggest to put bird feeders close to some dense cover, such as trees or brush, where they can take refuge.

Cats

Cats are the most dangerous predators for urban wild birds. An estimate of up to a million songbirds are caught by cats each year, according to Sally Roth in her book, Attracting Birds to Your Backyard.  Put feeders where cats can’t jump down on them and, if you have a cat, keep it inside.  In addition, make a habit of chasing your neighbors’ cats or feral cats away from your bird feeders.

While birds may see bird feeders, if they do not feel safe, they will not spend time there.  Do birds find bird feeders?  You may not know they found it unless you create an environment in which they feel they can safely dine.

I Spy Dinner on the Ground.

How else do birds find bird feeders?  Birds are more likely to notice some seeds on the ground than in a new bird feeder.  As mentioned earlier, birds are accustomed to flying around their area looking for food on the ground. Placing bird seed under a feeder may attract them faster initially than in the bird feeder. Also, seed is often on the ground under the feeder where it has been knocked out by other birds.

Many birds will quickly become aware there is exceedingly more food in the feeder than on the ground.  Of course, some birds are ground feeders by nature and would prefer you keep putting the birdseed on the ground.

Birds Love a Buffet.

Different birds love different bird seeds and various forms of food. Not only do different types of  birds like different food , but most birds like a variety, including insects.  Providing either a high-quality bird seed mix or multiple types of bird food will make your bird feeder more popular.

Also, just as we enjoy a beverage with our buffets, don’t forget water for the birds.  Bird baths and fountains come in different shapes, sizes and price tags. If water is not readily available for your backyard birds, provide it for them.

Is There Room on That Bird Feeder for Me?

Do Birds Find Bird Feeders - These Sparrows found a Tube Bird Feeder
Sparrows Sharing a Tube Feeder

It is always wise to pay attention to the number and size of perches on your feeder. Birds need multiple perches that are the right size for the birds you hope to attract. You may need more than one bird feeder for all the types of birds in your neighborhood to find you. Some bird feeders are large enough that any bird can land on and access the food.  Others are built to meet the needs of small birds only.

Be sure to have bird feeders with perches of different sizes to allow the variety of birds attracted to your backyard plenty of room to eat.

Do Birds Bind Bird Feeders?  Fast Enough for a Food Fight!

Oh yes, birds will fight over the easily obtained, yummy food on your feeder. More aggressive birds will flap their wings in a combative manner to run off other birds. Smaller birds sometime flap their wings, but I find they usually just bump other birds off the feeder.

Some birds will also make loud, threatening calls to proclaim the feeder as their territory. While this may run birds off the feeder, it also alerts other birds.  It informs them that there is a source of food nearby that is worth fighting over. While this was not the threatening bird’s goal, it works well for me as a bird watcher.  I benefit by having more birds to watch at the feeders.

 

Maria Smith also pointed out in the Cornell Labs’ blog,  Angry Birds: Alarm Calling at Bird Feeders, that birds also make loud alarm calls when they sense danger.  For those who are familiar with the sounds of the calls, including other birds, you can recognize the difference between the two different loud, threatening calls.

There’s One! There’s a Feeder! I’ll Race You to It.

Do birds find bird feeders?  If your birds have not been introduced to bird feeders previously, they may be shy of a new feeder.  It may take a little while for them to feel comfortable hanging around it for very long at a time. I often see birds swoop in to quickly grab a seed and then fly off to a safe place to enjoy it. After a while, most get more comfortable with the feeder and will spend more time at it.

However, many birds, especially in urban neighborhoods, are already familiar with and love bird feeders. If they have spent time at other bird feeders, they may quickly recognize a new one.

Guest For Dinner.

Do Birds Find Bird Feeders - Blue Jay at feeder
Blue Jay with corn on feeder, by Faye Cornish, CC Unsplash

Enjoy having your neighborhood birds to your home for dinner.  Help them find your backyard bird feeders.  Provide a safe place for them to eat favored food often at your feeders.

Comments

What do you think of Bird Watching Made Easy?  Do you have a question, or something you would like to learn in future posts?  Are there pictures or stories you would like to share from your birding experience? Leave comments below and I promise to respond to every comment timely!

All the best,

JoAnn

Author of Bird Watching Made Easy

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4 Replies to “Do Birds Find Bird Feeders: You Can Help!”

  1. I live in Missouri and love hummingbirds, I get one here and there but not like I use to. A few years ago I had to the visited every morning and evening like clockwork. But the last years or so its maybe one here or there. What can do to attract them a certain flower? I don’t seem to have much luck with the feeders I just get ants.

    1. Hey Dawna,

      Thank you for reaching out.  It’s good to hear from Missouri.

      I’m sorry to hear your hummingbirds are not around as much as they used to be, or that you would like them to be!

      First, let’s talk about the ant problem.  Hummingbirds have been known to abandon feeders with a long term ant problem.  There are several inexpensive products on the market to help. 

      First, be sure your hummingbird feeders are clean, not sticky with spilled nectar, and are not leaking.   My yard crew sometimes hits a nectar feeder with their heads and I have to clean the sugar water off of them, usually spilling it in the process.  Such fun.

      An ant moat puts a small pool of water that is put on the chain of the feeder, in which ants will drown.  

      Another product is an Antguard, which has an insectiside that will kill ants in an enclosed cup.  It is also installed on the chain of the nectar feeder.

      Last year I used a cream product that I put on the pole.  It blocked the path of the ants to the feeder.  It worked well, but left a creamy mark on the pole that I can’t get off.

      In addition to getting rid of the pesky ants and keeping the nectar fresh, you might plant some colorful flowers, as you mentions. Red,orange, or even yellow tubular-shaped flowers, such as salvia, coral honeysuckle and red pentas are some flowers that are often recommended. Check with your local nursery for which flowers work in your region.    These flowers may attract butterflies as well as hummingbirds!  Double Bonus.

      Thanks for your question.  Please stay in tough and continue to enjoy .Bird Watching Made Easy.

      JoAnn

  2. Birds have great vision, relatively little sense of smell. Thank you for telling us! If we want birds to find our feeders, we must make it easy for them to see where the food is.

    It is also good to know that birds may need to warm up to a new source of food. They may see a source of food — but how it is placed feels foreign to them. So they don’t immediately trust that it is food for them.

    It has to be visible to the birds — yet feel safe for them to eat there. Thank you for telling us this! That can be a tricky balance. So have some good shelter easily visible to the birds, too.

    Bird feeding is a science — and must be studied as such. Otherwise, we may not get the variety of birds we want. Not everything is obvious from intuition.

    1. Thanks, Michael. I appreaciate your comments.
      There is so much to learn birds and meeting their needs while giving us the pleasure of sharing a yard with them. My goal is to make the process easier for current backyard birders than it sometimes is.

      ~ Jo Ann

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