Backyard Chirper

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Common mistakes that keep birds away from your feeders

Whether you’re brand new to feeding birds or have been feeding for the past 20 years, there’s nothing more disappointing than a completely empty bird feeder, especially when you know there are birds all around. While there are occasionally natural explanations for why birds are avoiding your feeder (for example, they migrated for the winter), there are also many common mistakes people make that keep birds away.

Birds don’t feel safe at your feeders

Birds are notoriously antsy creatures who are overly cautious and if they perceive any danger around a bird feeder, they will avoid it. To maximize their feeling of safety, place the feeder away from trees where predators can stalk and put up baffles to keep animals out. If your cat is constantly sneaking around your yard, birds will not put themselves in harms way.

Your feeders are empty

This one seems pretty obvious, but during certain times of the year, your feeder is more likely to become empty faster. If you are consistently forgetting to add more seed to your feeder, birds will learn to pass up your feeders. A good way to keep them full is to get one with larger capacities or give yourself weekly reminders.

Your feeder is messy

Messiness is typically not something that keeps birds away, but it attracts the wrong types. Pigeons will really flock to areas with seed spread all over the place and rats will also take up residence. The presence of these two animals will keep away the more desired birds.

You only have one type of bird feeder

Although it’s possible to attract birds with only one type of feeder, it will limit the diversity of birds you’ll attract and in some areas where there are more suet eaters, you might see fewer birds in your yard. Use a variety of designs to attract the maximum number of birds.

Using cheap birdseed with too much filler food

I recently wrote about how birds can recognize (and ultimately despise) cheap birdseed because it’s filled with corn and millet, which many birds simply don’t like. If you’re using really cheap mixed-seed bargain bags, they will ditch your feeder and find another place to snack.

Old or improperly stored birdseed

Just like nearly any food you have at your house, birdseed eventually becomes stale and old, especially when stored improperly. If you leave an open bag of seed in your garage, it’ll leave it susceptible to mice and other critters. You want to keep it in a tightly sealed container in a dry room, so it doesn’t lose its nutritional value. Birds are intelligent, and they will usually know the difference.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. Please help with advice. Due to feeding birds, rats were attracted to our home and the rats found them some openings to the attic. We have had an exterminator abolish them and it was recommended we stop feeding birds. Please give me some helpful advice – Iove my birds

  2. Don’t forget good clean water available all the time. This is very important even in winter. My birds are drinking it all the time.

  3. Great point Barbara!

  4. I have deer trying to eat my birdseed. I do throw it on the ground, as nothing has worked to keep the squirels out of the feeder. I attract a variety of birds and enjoy watching the jays and smaller birds interacting. The deer come by occassionally to lick up whatever they can. Opportunists!

  5. Would the noise of an aerator scare the birds away from my feeder

  6. Iihang my bird feeders with fishing line the squirrels can’t climb down it and I put it far enough away from any lower limbs that they can’t jump to the bird feeder

  7. Ugh! I’m going through the same issue!!!! we are waiting for an exterminator to come for the outside….and I’m so upset that I may have to take my feeders down….I just purchased a few seed catching trays I put them up today, will see how it goes…I’m hoping if I can prevent the seed from falling all over the ground we’ll be able to watch our birds….rat free 🙄😖 good luck! Please keep us posted! Amazon has seed catchers for under $30 if you decide to look around

  8. Bought new feeder last sunday- put up same day- have half a dozen feeders now. All types- Really all week no birds – This morning took down new feeder- no more turned around and the birds came back. Wtf. What could it be.

  9. A couple weeks ago I had an injured deer laying in the area of my birdfeeders. My
    birds have stopped coming. I refilled all my feeders, thinking that would help, but,
    it didn’t. I sprayed a deter repellent and still no birds. I bought new feeders and
    refilled feeders, I got a few small ones, and a woodpecker but, no cardinals or finches.
    Please help! I miss my birds! Thank You.

  10. Where have the birds gone? I hear them in the wooded area behind my house but they stopped feeding at the feeders in my yard. They have been feeding here all winter then suddenly they stopped. We have sprayed deer repellent on hostas but have done so every year to deter the deer from eating them. The birds won’t even use the bird bath which they had in the past. The only new bird I see is a catbird. Could they be scaring the smaller birds away? I have fresh seed in feeders mixed with nuts and they seemed to love it last week.

  11. Does size/shape of feeder scare birds away. Got a bright red Cardinal shaped feeder, about 14 inches tall for gift. Been up for 4 days now and nada.. Believe birds are scared as they think it is a huge Cardinal.

  12. I received a beautiful bird feeder for Christmas and waited till Spring to put it up. It’s designed so that if a squirrel tries to sit on the edge of it, the weight of the squirrel would make the front drop, thus making it fall to the ground. I have new mixed birdseed that wasn’t cheap bargain food. So far, I haven’t seen one bird at my feeder. The hummers are drinking their feeders dry as usual, but with all the birds we have here in east Texas and especially here in our extremely wooded community, I’m totally perplexed. Help!!!

  13. Not a comment but a query. I just installed a 27′ telescoping flagpole. The eagle finial at 12″ looks ridiculous and will be returned. Would a larger eagle be a deterrant to my birds?
    Thank you!

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