The apparent or actual lack of birds coming to backyard feeders is a common question posed by bird lovers everywhere. People who work in bird feeding and birding-related stores probably hear this question just as often as inquiries about bird seed. When you first put up a feeder in the backyard, birds sometimes show up straight away to take advantage of the sudden bonanza of seed. However, they just as often don’t show up at the feeder despite happily chirping away from some nearby hedge. Although the reasons for their absence might seem evasive, a closer look will probably reveal why the local birds seem to be avoiding your garden. The following are some of the more common reasons:
- Other neighborhood feeders: If local birds are used to feeding at safe, well-stocked feeders a street or two away, or even next door, they might not need to forage anywhere else. If this is why the birds aren’t showing up in your backyard, you will probably see more avian visitors as flocks of wintering birds arrive.
- Good crops of “wild food”: When birds have plenty of wild seeding plants and berries to choose from, they don’t need to visit anyone’s backyard. Such wild, natural food is also what they are most adapted to so if there is plenty of that around, they won’t be showing up at your feeders.
- Mild weather: If the weather is rather mild for winter, birds are probably getting enough food away from feeders. It should come as no surprise that feeding stations see more birds during freezing cold weather because this is when birds need to eat more while expending less energy.
- Predators: These usually come in the form of resident or migrant hawks, shrikes, and cats. As more bird-eating raptors pass through the neighborhood during migration, the local populations of small birds are going to be a lot more wary and might not feel safe at a feeder. The same can be said if there is a resident hawk, shrike, or cat lurking in your backyard. Birds are much more aware of such predators than people so if you note a sudden absence of birds in the backyard, take a close around the garden and in surrounding trees. Don’t be surprised if you discover a cat, hawk, or even an owl waiting in ambush. The owl probably wouldn’t be actually waiting to ambush birds at your feeder but that won’t stop them from giving it a wide berth.
- Empty feeders: For birds to view your feeder as a reliable food source, you have to be faithful about stocking it. Whether birds are showing up or not, keep your feeders clean and filled and they will eventually start using them. If they come to the backyard and find a feeder with old, dirty seed or nothing available, they probably won’t be coming back any time soon.
- Cover: As in bushes and trees where birds can rest and feel safe from predators. Birds will also visit feeders in the open but this is much more stressful and risky than visiting a feeder next to a thick bush.
Have you noticed fewer birds visiting your backyard? If so, how did you bring them back to your feeders?