Proper bird feeder placement makes a startling difference for the attractiveness of a bird feeder, both for the birds eating from it and the birders watching it. By placing your feeders where they will be most convenient for you and for the birds, you can make the most of every bird feeding opportunity to provide good food for a wide range of birds and to see a variety of different species enjoying the meal.
Placing Bird Feeders for the Birds
The most important factors to consider when choosing the best bird feeder placement are those that affect how the birds will see and use the feeder. If the birds do not find the feeder placement comfortable, safe or convenient, they will not use it as frequently. When placing bird feeders in your yard, keep these considerations in mind:
- Natural Feeding: The best place to put a feeder will simulate a bird's natural feeding preferences. Suet feeders for woodpeckers, for example, will be more popular if placed near tree trunks, while platform feeders for ground-feeding birds do best in areas where those birds will normally feed.
- Activity: Feeders in quiet, less disturbed areas generally do better than feeders placed near active areas such as a play structure, garage door or patio. While birds can become accustomed to some noise and activity, many species prefer a quieter area for feeding.
- Safety: Birds will not visit a feeder in an unsafe area. Position bird feeders roughly 10-12 feet from suitable shelter such as trees, brush piles or shrubs to give birds a safe, fast retreat whenever a predator is nearby, but keeping the feeder far enough away from potential cat crouching areas. At the same time, take suitable steps to protect backyard birds from cats to make the feeding area even safer.
- Windows: Window collisions are often fatal to small birds, and feeders should be placed either very close to the window (less than three feet away), or much further away (greater than 10 feet away), so birds cannot hit the window hard enough for injury or have enough room to maneuver. Other ways to prevent bird window collisions can also be useful and will drastically minimize this problem.
- Visibility: Birds need to see a feeder before they will readily visit it. Placing feeders in a sunny, open area not only makes them more visible to passing birds, but it also gives feeding birds a good field of view to stay on the lookout for predators and other threats.
- Chemicals: If you use chemicals in one area of your yard, such as pesticides on a garden, bird feeders should be placed as far away as possible so the seed or other foods cannot become contaminated. Once you attract a lot of feeding birds, however, you may find you need fewer chemicals altogether, since the birds will readily eat insects and help keep your yard and garden naturally healthy.
- Squirrels: Squirrels can damage feeders in many ways, and placing your bird feeders well away from trees, sturdy shrubs, fences, roofs and other structures where squirrels can leap from will help keep the feeder free from damage. Taking other steps to squirrel-proof your feeders can help minimize this problem no matter where your feeders are located.
- Personal Space: Different bird species have different sizes of feeding territories, and a very crowded feeding area can create more aggression and territoriality as some birds drive others away from the feeders. Spreading feeders out over a greater distance can allow more birds the chance to feed and help lessen the risk of spreading communicable diseases at bird feeders.
Placing Bird Feeders for Birders
Most birders want to enjoy the benefits of feeding birds, such as attracting more species, seeing them up close, building a yard list and identifying new feeder visitors. By choosing your bird feeder placement to meet your needs, you will be able to enjoy each feeder just as much as the birds. To maximize that enjoyment, consider:
- View: Place a feeder in an area where you have a clear, unobstructed view from an easy window. Also consider the light the feeder is in – bright sunlight may make it easier to see birds’ colors and finer field marks for easy identification, but it could make bird photography more problematic. A shaded area may have less glare and afford better views during summer months.
- Refilling: Placing a feeder in an area where it will be easy to refill can help you keep the feeder in good shape to attract more birds. If you need a stepladder or special tools to refill a feeder each time, you are less likely to keep it filled, but an easy feeder will be a more reliable food source for the birds.
- Shelter: If your climate is prone to strong wings, heavy rain or abundant snowfall, it is best to position bird feeders in sheltered areas. Not only will this help protect the feeder and the birds using it from the brunt of poor weather, but it will also make it easier to care for and refill the feeder in adverse conditions, just when the birds will need the food the most.
- Mess: Bird feeders are naturally messy with discarded hulls, molted feathers and bird feces. Regular cleaning is essential, but positioning your bird feeder in a space where the mess will not be as noticeable or objectionable can help minimize any annoyance. For example, place the feeder in a natural, brushy area instead of near a heavily manicured flowerbed or over a decorated patio and any discards or leavings will not be as problematic.
More Tips for Bird Feeder Placement
No matter where you place your bird feeders it may take several days or weeks for the birds to find the feeding station and make the best use of it. To help encourage the birds to enjoy your careful bird feeder placement…
- Use colors to attract birds to a feeding station by adding nearby flowers, flower pots or decorative items to catch their attention.
- Take steps to get birds to use a new feeder by providing their favorite seeds and other popular foods for them to try.
- Provide nearby perches, bird baths and suitable shelter for both safety and nesting to meet all of the birds’ basic needs so they will stay in the area for more than just feeding.
If no birds use your bird feeders, no matter how carefully they are placed, it can be helpful to move the feeder after 2-3 weeks and try again to attract birds. You may also need to inspect the feeder to be sure the food is fresh and accessible, and if everything is suitable, just be patient. In time, birds will learn where your feeders are, giving you many opportunities to enjoy their mealtime company.
Photo – Downy Woodpecker on Suet Feeder © Shara Miller