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Bird Feeder Setup: How-To Guide for Your Feeding Station

Indian house sparrows eating at the bird feeder

Last Updated: September 20, 2022

Attracting birds isn't just about buying a feeder and filling it with store-bought food. If you want to attract birds, simply putting food out there won't cut it.

They also need to feel secure and comfortable while eating.

Thus, you may need to take extra steps in having a proper bird feeder setup.

Don't worry, though; we're here to help you with that!

We prepared four simple steps (along with other tips) on where and how to build a bird feeding station. 

What are you waiting for?

1. Choose An Appropriate Location Bird Feeder location

Before learning the "how," you must first know the "where."

This process will determine how much your feeding station will appeal to you and the backyard birds in your area.

After all, even if you have the best feeders, bird feed, or accessories in the market, birds will be hesitant to visit if they don't find the location safe and comfortable for eating.

Proximity To Nature

One effective way of attracting birds to your feeders is to have them stimulate a bird's natural feeding environment.

When there are trees, shrubs, and other forms of nature nearby, birds will feel safe since they have places for suitable shelter or retreat if they suddenly see a predator.

This means that you shouldn't expect any wild bird to visit an open, empty backyard. In that case, you can do some landscaping by planting flowers, shrubs, or bushes.

Plus, landscaping would introduce insects, which are a natural food source for birds - another reason for them to hang out in your backyard!

However, don't put your feeding station TOO close to nature because squirrels can use trees as a launchpad to access your feeders. Meanwhile, cats can use bushes to sneak and suddenly pounce at the feeding birds.

Plus, too much nature could potentially hide your feeders, especially with trees and tall shrubs. Remember, birds will less likely visit if they have difficulty finding your feeders.

Thus, we recommend placing your feeding station in a bright, open area, at least 10-12 feet from their natural habitat. This way, birds can easily see your feeders and quickly retreat if predators arrive.

However, you want to place it in a sheltered location instead if your area is prone to heavy snow or rainfall.

Winter bird feeding is essential because food is scarce in the wild during this time, so you need to protect your bird food from the elements to avoid mold and spoilage.

Proximity To Your Home

Except for harsh weather, wild birds are good at finding food by themselves. So, there's no shame in setting up your feeder station based on your enjoyment and interests.

You can place your bird feeders where there's a clear view from your home, such as near your windows.

This way, you can observe the birds' antics and enjoy their presence. You can also see and act quickly during an emergency, such as predators attacking or a sick bird contaminating your feeders.

However, you have to be mindful of the distance of your feeding station from your windows. Feeding birds tend to collide with windows when they're frightened, possibly leading to fatal injury.

We recommend placing your bird feeders either less than 3 feet OR more than 10-15 feet away from the window.

If the feeding station is less than 3 feet away, birds can't get enough momentum to get fatally injured. Meanwhile, if it's more than 10-15 feet away, birds will have enough time to react and make a turn.

On the other hand, some bird species prefer quiet places. It's best to avoid setting up at areas with human traffic, such as playgrounds or patios, and artificial noises like wind chimes.

We also recommend keeping your station away from your garden if you use insecticides, as this can be dangerous for the birds.

However, once your station attracts many birds, you'd end up using fewer insecticides since birds also eat insects, which keeps your garden naturally healthy. Isn't that neat?

Convenience

For extra tips regarding location, we recommend setting up your feeding station where you can easily access it for refills, cleaning, and repairs.

If it's placed in a spot where you need special tools for access, you'd be less likely to manage your bird feeders.

You also have to note that feeders are naturally messy, from bird droppings, food scraps, molted feathers, and more.

If you care about the aesthetics of your home, don't place your station near heavily-decorated places, such as flower beds.

2. Pick An Appropriate Feeder And Bird Food

The next step is to tailor your feeding station based on what bird species you're trying to attract. There are different feeders to choose from, each designed to favor a particular species.

For example, tray/platform feeders are best for large birds like the Northern Cardinal and Mourning Dove. In contrast, tube feeders are best for small birds like the House Finch and Carolina Chickadee.

There are even special feeder types, like the decorative feeder and window feeder.

Choosing between different feeders isn't a problem if you have the budget and commitment - you can just buy one of each!

However, if you're still testing the waters, we recommend the hopper feeder as your first purchase.

Its structure and versatility will attract a wide variety of birds. Plus, it's a good foundation/centerpiece if you want to eventually build other feeders around it.

When it comes to loading up your feeders, some are more straightforward than others. For example, a suet feeder uses suet, while a hummingbird feeder uses sugar water.

Meanwhile, it may be a bit trickier for birdseed feeders (platform, tube, and hopper) since birds have different preferences toward seeds.

Instead, you can use a birdseed mix if you don't want to have a study session about seeds. However, keep in mind that not all seed mixes are created equally.

We recommend checking the ingredients list first. If you don't know yet, the ingredient list of any product goes in descending order based on weight.

If the first ingredients in the list are millet or milo, don't buy the seed mix! Those are cheap filler ingredients, and only very few birds eat those.

You want to look for birdseed mixes with sunflower and/or safflower seeds at the top of the list.

3. Install A Bird Feeder Pole (Optional)Bird Feeder with a pole

You can mount feeders in various places, such as trees, fences, windows, or even the ground. However, we highly recommend getting yourself a bird feeder pole.

It might cost you a bit extra, but it's an excellent investment if you want to buy multiple bird feeders.

Most bird feeder poles can hang 6-8 feeders at once, and some even come with clamps to attach a tray feeder or a water bowl.

You can also install it anywhere, which is convenient if your backyard doesn't have too many ideal feeding station areas.

If you want, you can install a shepherd's hook instead, which is basically the same concept but for one feeder only.

4. Protect Your Feeder

Just because it's called a "bird feeder station" doesn't mean only birds will visit. Whether you like it or not, other unwanted creatures will raid your bird food.

If you don't think of a solution fast, your wallet's going empty in no time!

Rodents

Rodents, especially squirrels, are notorious for stealing bird food. In fact, "squirrel-proof" is one of the most common buzzwords you'll see while buying a feeder.

A lot of feeders out there already have some form of anti-squirrel mechanism. Some of them are simple design choices, such as a sloped roof or small feeding perches, so those pesky squirrels can't hold onto anything.

There are also feeders enclosed in a wire cage, so only small birds can enter and eat.

However, the most amusing mechanism is a weight-sensitive perch. If anything heavier than a small bird tries to step on the feeding perch, it will collapse and block the feeding ports.

There are even weight-sensitive perches that involve motors, which will literally SPIN and gently fling squirrels off the feeder.

Still, you can buy squirrel-proof products separately, such as a baffle that you can attach to the feeder itself or to the feeder pole.

Invasive Birds

Although the goal of a bird feeder is to feed birds, there are some species you may want to deter, such as crows, grackles, starlings, and the House Sparrow.

These birds travel in aggressive and hungry flocks, often overrunning your feeding station and taking a massive chunk of the food.

The squirrel-proof mechanisms we mentioned actually work on them, except for House Sparrows since they are small enough to get past feeder cages and weight-sensitive perches.

If you want to get rid of starlings and other "pest" birds, you may fill your feeders with foods they don't enjoy or have a separate feeding area for them that provides cheap food.

Ants

Ants are a common problem of a hummingbird feeder, as it uses sugar water.

You can easily deter them by purchasing a model with a built-in ant moat. Still, you can buy ant moats separately if your feeder doesn't have one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prevent predators from visiting my feeder?

Some of the most common predators of backyard birds are raptors, and surprisingly, cats. Although feral cats are more aggressive, domestic cats kill too. In fact, free-roaming domestic cats kill 1.3-4.0 MILLION birds per year. That's in the USA alone.

Isn't that number crazy?

You can still somewhat control your house cats from going outside, but not so much with feral cats. As we suggested earlier, keep your backyard bird feeding stations 10-12 feet away from dense shrubbery.

Regarding raptors, you can take down your feeders for 2-3 weeks until they move on. Suppose you want a quick remedy, or they still bother you after several weeks. In that case, we suggest contacting your local wildlife services for help. Don't try to deal with raptors yourself - it's illegal and dangerous!

If you have a cat at home and you want to set up a feeder, try this:

Can bird feeders be close to each other?

If you're planning to have an elaborate feeding station setup, then there are some feeders that you should attach separately due to safety concerns. For example, hummingbirds, despite their size, are very aggressive.

Meanwhile, American Goldfinches are often driven away from feeders by other birds, especially if the station is overcrowded. It's best to keep their feeders away from the central feeding station, so all birds can enjoy their food peacefully.

Why haven't I seen birds visit my backyard?

One rule in learning how to set up a bird feeder is having patience. Don't be surprised if birds don't visit immediately since it may take them several days or weeks to recognize a new food source.

Meanwhile, some birds are still shy and may only eat whenever you're not looking. You may check food levels regularly to know if a bird's eating out of your feeder.

If you're still not confident, then you can try installing a birdbath or birdhouse in your backyard. These provide more of the birds' basic needs, making them more likely to stay in your backyard.

If nothing's still happening, then you can try moving the feeding station to a different spot, checking if the food's still fresh, or inspecting if your feeders are accessible.

The Bottom Line

If you genuinely want to learn how to build a bird feeding station, you must remember that it doesn't have to be perfect.

You don't need the perfect bird feeders, food, or the perfect location. As long as you provide a safe and healthy space for the backyard birds, you'll be enjoying their company eventually.

With that being said, we hope this article helped with your bird feeder station. Whether you have 1 or 10 feeders, we hope your birding experience will be enjoyable nonetheless!

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