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How to Attract Birds to Feeder: Tips & Tricks That WORK

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 26th, 2024

When we get a backyard feeder, we have this dream of waking up to birds chirping melodious choruses as they splash, bathe or enjoy suet.

Then, boom!

Many days after getting a feeder, only a handful of birds visit. When that happens, we have to learn how to attract birds to feeder foods, or our bird feeding hobby will end before it begins.

That's why we rounded up tips to help you bring more species to your bird seeds.

How To Attract Birds To Bird Feeder

Every state has hundreds of bird species that frequent bird feeders to supplement the food they eat in the wild.

To get more feeding birds on your property:

Offer A Variety Of Bird Food different seeds for birds


Backyard birds eat almost the same thing. They like standard best no-mess bird seed options like safflower, peanuts, suet, cracked corn, peanut hearts, oats, nyjer seed, milo, millet, and mealworms.

But, offer the food the species you're attracting loves.

For example, black oil sunflower seeds are favorites for chickadees, titmice, sparrows, towhees, finches, cardinals, nuthatches, and jays. Sugar water doesn't attract as many species as other foods. 

You can use it if you're hoping to attract hummingbirds, yellow-rumped warblers, Baltimore orioles, and the red-bellied woodpeckers. Make this mixture at home by boiling sugar and water in a ratio of four (water) to one (sugar). After cooling, pour it into a hummingbird feeder.

Use Different Feeder Designs

In the beginning, use a simple tray feeder to draw more garden birds as the food will be visible.

Once you have an avian audience, diversify the feeding platforms.

There are two reasons for doing this. One, different birds come to different backyard bird feeder types. Two, you'll serve the foods we talked about above in different bird feeders, from suet cages to hopper feeders.

For example, safflower seed served in small tube feeders attracts the black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, northern cardinal, house finch, and the white-breasted nuthatch. If you put it in a large tube feeder, you'll also attract the blue jay. 

Further, if you put it on a platform feeder, you'll also draw woodpeckers, mourning doves, grackles, and sparrows like the song sparrow.

The choice also depends on the bully birds in your area. For instance, put safflower in a small tube feeder to feed small birds like house finches, chickadees, and titmice only.

Sometimes, you only need to sprinkle seeds and mealworms on the ground.

Have A Maintenance Plan

Bird disease can spread as the feeder is a small space used by hundreds of birds. Additionally, bird droppings and rainwater may contaminate the food.

Consequently, create a schedule to remove old or wet seeds and clean the feeder.

Maintenance also means checking the feeder for missing or broken parts as these can trap or injure smaller birds. In winter, use a heater to warm the birdbath. 

If you're getting a new feeder, here's:

How To Attract Birds To A New Feeder: Follow These Tips

A new design will have you wondering how to get birds to come to your best bird feeder. Here's what to do.

Use The Old Feeder

Place the new feeder close to the old one to acquaint birds with it.

After some time, empty the old feeder and fill the new one. You can even remove the old one, so birds have no option but to try the new feeding station. When they get used to it, you can take the old one to another spot or do away with it altogether.

Know The Species In Your State

white and black birds perching on a tree

Observe the backyard visitors you're getting, their frequency, and what they do on your property. 

On top of that, participate in the great backyard bird count held across states.

Your state may be the wintering range for one species and the summer home for another species.

Make it a habitat for all the seasons of the year.

This information will help you position your bird feeders suitably and choose food to attract specific avians.

Increase Native Plants And Trees In Your Backyard

Since all birds can't fit on your feeder's perches, have a tree nearby where more birds can rest.

When you have a variety of plants that bloom in different seasons, birds will get fruits and berries in all seasons. Native plants also bring insects to supplement the diet of birds.

Lastly, leaf piles are a shelter for some species, such as goldfinches, and others use twigs, leaves, and grass as nesting material. 

Offer Bird Baths

Some birds may not want seeds, but they'll enjoy a spot at your bird bath. 

The bird bath's depth should not exceed 2 inches, and it should be shallower towards the edges so that all types of birds have somewhere to bathe or quench their thirst.

Change the water every week and clean the birdbath regularly to prevent contamination.

Install A Bird House

The houses you'll install depend on the species you're attracting. Install one with a small entrance to keep out larger birds. 

Do you think you're ready to implement our tips? Before you do so, check the answers below for more ideas.

Here's a video showing simple steps to mount a birdhouse:

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for birds to come to a bird feeder?

The most common species may show up in a day or two but you're likely to see them two weeks to a month after prepping your backyard. A wild bird will observe the surroundings for a while to see how safe it is, then check out what you have in your bird feeders. 

To know how to attract birds to a bird feeder, consider the Rule of 2s that suggests birds may see your new feeders in two seconds, two minutes, two hours, two weeks, or two months. It can happen today or two months from now.

Why won't birds come to my feeder?

If you've just prepared your backyard, then be patient, and you'll see birds visiting your feeders. If they stay in a corner away from the feeder, then tease them with birdseed sprinkled on the ground.

You'll know the combination of foods to put in your feeders when you know which species loves what. The Cornell Lab has a comprehensive tool that shows you the food and feeder preferences of species found in North America.

If you don't want to mix and boil stuff at home, there are no-mess blends of sunflower seed, hulled white millet, and shelled peanuts from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Where is the best place to put a bird feeder?

The Natural Resources extension of IOWA State University says a habitat for wildlife should be an oasis with water, food, and native plants for shelter. If you have a window feeder, then have a safe distance from the window panes to prevent injury as the birds take off.

Place it away from predators like squirrels, cats, and hawks. Some of these predators, such as squirrels, can leap from a tree onto a feeder ten feet away. Therefore, place your feeders about 12 to 15 feet from a tree or shrub. It should be near a natural shelter where birds can run to if a predator comes to the feeder.

Ground feeding birds, such as a house sparrow, need a low-level tray, about four inches from the ground, for the grass underneath to grow. Further, move such a feeder from one spot to the other so that you can clean droppings underneath to maintain your lawn.

The space available ought to guide you on the feeders to get. For instance, one feeder pole can be a complete feeding station with a suet feeder, a hopper feeder, and a tray feeder. That way, you can have several feeder poles on your property.

Final Thoughts

Bird watching at home is more enjoyable when you have many species coming to your feeder.

The basics of how to get birds to come to your bird feeder involve turning your backyard into a haven with food, water, and shelter.

If avians still don't show up after you offer these three, some changes are necessary to make your backyard more accommodating. For instance, you may need to plant trees for shy birds to perch. Also, there might be predators bullying small birds. When you do all that, sit back and enjoy birding.

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