I'm often asked why birds have stopped coming to their backyard feeders. It may even be 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.
These types of bird seed originated with the poultry industry.
Wild birds are not attracted to these 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.
Weather can be a factor when it comes to natural food. When winters are mild or during summer, birds will have more natural food sources available. When this happens, bird feeders are going to be used less.
Always being on the lookout for food is a survival tactic of most birds. Most never rely on a single source for survival. Those species that have a very specific diet or specific stopping points during migration are at the greatest risk of extinction.
Offering a bird feeding station filled with Black-oil sunflower seed, nyjer seed, suet, peanuts, will draw more birds than a single feeder with one type of seed.
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. Be ready by offering Black-Oil Sunflower Seed this seed attracts the most species of birds.
Sometimes it's as simple as waiting out the weather 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 adding baffles to pole feeders for climbing predators.
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
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