I'm often asked by someone as to why birds have stopped coming to their backyard feeders.
It may be even more specific, such as; "why have the Goldfinches stopped showing up". Or even more often, "where did the Orioles go".
Surprising to many birdwatchers is the fact that some of the birds you see at your feeder in the morning may not be the same birds you see in late afternoon.
As birds are continually searching for food, those that come in the morning may be far away by afternoon.
Those you see in the afternoon were most likely feeding far away in the morning. Of course, some birds are territorial and are around throughout the day.
Understanding bird behavior when it comes to feeding can help you understand why they've stopped showing up. Here are some things to look for.
Coopers and Sharp-shinned Hawks are common in neighborhoods. Just because you haven't seen one doesn't mean they are not around. It happens so much that we've got a page about what to do, link at the end of this article.
Inexpensive seed varieties contain seed such as white millet which doesn't attract many songbirds.
These types of bird seed originated with the poultry industry.
Most wild birds are not attracted to these cheaper types. House Sparrows however, will eat these cheaper seed types and will aggressively keep other species away from feeders.
House Sparrows are an introduced species and considered a pest that is harmful to native species.
Consider offering a blend that attracts a variety of songbirds such as Cole's SF20 Special a bit pricey but good. Also, don't let your seed spoil in the feeders.
Try a tray feeder. This type of feeder attracts more skittish birds since it offers a quick open escape from flying preadators.
Just don't offer your most expensive seed as any bird or mammal will have easy access with this type of feeder.
Their survival is dependent on their ability to know and find natural food sources.
Weather can be a factor when it comes to natural food. When winters are mild or during spring and summer, birds will have more natural food sources available. When this happens, bird feeders are going to be used less.
Birds are always on the lookout for food. It's their survival that is at stake. Most birds never rely on a single feeding source for survival. Consider offering food in different places in your yard.
Those species that have a very specific diet or specific stopping points during migration, are at the greatest risk of extinction should those food sources dry up.
Given a choice, it isn't difficult to see where the birds will be feeding. By using the term neighbors, I don't mean next door.
Birds travel great distances during the day getting to all their food sources. So don't assume because none of your close neighbors are birdwatchers that you're the only source of food. That perfect site may be a mile away.
Sometimes the young may be brought to your feeder but more times than not, they'll go somewhere else.
Once fledging happens, territories expand. New birds will find your feeders and your regulars will move on.
This can also be a great time to see new types of birds at your feeders as migrating birds pass through and winter residents move in.
If you're offering only one type of seed, make sure it's Black-Oil Sunflower Seed. This type of seed attracts the most species of birds.
Sometimes it's as simple as waiting out the weather and/or changing and offering more food choices.
As it gets colder the birds natural sources become less available and your feeders become more attractive.
Provide Water! Many people forget that birds need water to survive and in winter, water can be hard to come by.
A Heated Birdbath will give all the birds in your backyard a chance at survival And maybe give you an edge with other birdwatchers in the neighborhood.
Predators can be difficult, but with a little effort you can overcome the problems they present. You may have to get creative but you can do something about them such as making sure to have baffles on pole feeders for climbing predators. And brush piles to the birds to hide in.
If hawks are an issue please see: Hawks at Feeders
Bird Quest Spiral Finch
Giant Finch Flocker
Nyjer Feeder w/Tray
Upside Down Nyjer Feeder