12 Ways to Attract Birds to a New Feeder

Adding a bird feeder to your yard or garden can bring joy as you watch colorful birds visit for a snack. However, simply hanging a feeder doesn’t guarantee feathered friends will find it. Use these 12 tips to attract birds to a new feeder and enjoy their beauty and songs.

Location is Key

Strategically placing your feeder in the right spot is the first step to attract birds. Here are some location tips:

Near Trees and Bushes

Hang your feeder near trees, bushes, or other sources of natural cover. Birds feel more secure when they have a place to retreat if threatened. They also appreciate branches and foliage to perch on nearby.

Sheltered from Wind and Rain

Birds don’t like struggling with gusty winds and wet conditions any more than we do. Site your feeder in a covered spot that offers shelter from the elements. The eaves of a house or garage often work well.

Good Visibility

Pick a location with open sight lines so birds can scan for potential danger as they feed. Avoid cluttered areas with too many obstructions.

Enough Space

Leave ample room around the feeder so birds have space to swoop in and take off. Position it at least 5-10 feet from bushes, fences, or other barriers.

Partial Sun Exposure

While you don’t want the hot midday sun beating down, pick a spot with at least a few hours of morning or afternoon sunshine. This helps melt snow and ice in cold weather.

Choose the Right Feeder Design

Not all bird feeders are equal. Selecting the right feeder style and setup for your situation will make it more appealing.

Feeder Type

Match the feeder design to the birds you want to attract. Platform feeders are ideal for ground birds. Tube feeders work well for smaller birds. Hopper or house feeders accommodate bigger birds.

Size of Feeder

Bigger is not always better when it comes to bird feeders. A small feeder that gets refilled often is better than a large one that sits empty. Go with the smallest size that meets your needs.

Number of Feeders

Start with 2 or 3 feeders, or more if you have a large yard. This reduces crowding and allows different species to share. Spread feeders 10-15 feet apart.

Add Perches

Include a perching area if your feeder doesn’t already have one. This gives birds a place to pause and check for danger before venturing onto the feeder.

Fun Extras

Consider feeders with special perches, trays, nuts or fruit sections to provide variety and appeal to more types of birds.

Offer Preferred Foods

Providing birds’ favorite foods is key to attracting them. Tailor your offerings to the types of birds common in your area.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

These are the #1 choice to attract the widest variety of backyard birds. Their thin shells and high oil content make them very tasty!

Safflower Seeds

Cardinals, chickadees, finches, and other small birds enjoy these. Squirrels don’t like them as much as sunflower seeds.

Nyjer Seeds

Finches go crazy for these tiny black seeds. Use fine mesh feeders made specially for nyjer seeds.


High energy suet is irresistible for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and other insect eaters. Offer it in cages or special suet feeders.


Whole or chopped peanuts appeal to jays, woodpeckers, titmice, wrens, and more. Avoid mixes with lots of filler.


Dried raisins, cranberries, or cut oranges attract robins, waxwings, thrushes, orioles, and other fruit-loving species.


Many birds relish these protein-packed larvae. Look for dried mealworms to add to feeders or buy them live to sprinkle on the ground.


Provide a birdbath, fountain, or other water source. Birds need to drink and bathe. Moving water stays cleaner.

Use Quality Seed and Keep it Fresh

Poor quality or stale food does not encourage repeat visits. Follow these tips:

  • Buy high quality birdseed, preferably organic, non-GMO, and without fillers. Avoid cheap “wild bird mixes.”
  • Check expiration dates and don’t use old seed. Buy smaller amounts to use it up faster.
  • Store birdseed in rodent-proof, air-tight containers. Keep it fresh and dry.
  • Discard seed that smells musty, looks clumpy, or has lots of hulls/debris. Freshen feeders weekly.
  • Offer just a few days’ worth of food at a time to prevent spoiling, especially in warm weather.
  • For suet, look for raw suet or suet nuggets with rendered fat. Avoid mixes with filler, seed, or fruits.

Start Slowly and Be Patient

At first, only fill your feeder partially and resist overstocking it. Slowly increase the amount as birds find it. This prevents waste from uneaten seed. Also:

  • Expect it to take a few weeks for birds to discover the feeder, especially in winter.
  • Schedule feeder fill-ups for the early morning when birds are active and eager to eat.
  • Resist the urge to constantly disturb the feeder. Allow time for birds to get comfortable.
  • Be patient! Some days will have lots of feasting birds, others hardly any. Keep feeders filled consistently.

Prevent Rodents and Pests

It’s frustrating when squirrels, rats, mice, and other critters eat all the birdseed. Here are tips to deter them:

Use Dome or Tube Feeders

Dome and cylindrical tube feeders with small perches prevent large pests from reaching the seed. Weight-sensitive perches also limit access.

Add a Squirrel Baffle

Baffles are physical barriers that prevent squirrels from climbing feeder poles and accessing the food. Pick ones they can’t jump over or bypass.

Try Safflower and Nyjer Seed

As mentioned before, these smaller seeds are less appealing to squirrels and larger birds like starlings and grackle that bully others.

Use Hot Pepper Products

Coatings like hot pepper oil or powder on and around feeders repel squirrels with the spicy smell and taste without harming birds. Reapply regularly.

Offer Suet in Cages

Special suet cages allow access for small birds but keep out larger pests. Look for designs that clamp, lock, or wrap around poles.

Try Squirrel-proof Feeders

Weight-sensitive, electrically closing, and encased “squirrel-proof” feeders deny access once pest bodyweight triggers the closing mechanism.

Discourage Large Aggressive Birds

Some big birds like starlings, grackles, crows, and pigeons hog feeders and scare off smaller species. Here’s how to stop it:

Use Tube and House Feeders

The openings on tube and enclosed house feeders are too small for these big birds to use. Platform feeders leave food exposed.

Avoid Cheap Seed Mixes

Inexpensive mixes with lots of filler grains attract large undesirable birds. Stick to quality sunflower seeds, safflower, nyjer, etc.

Limit Fruit Offerings

Fruit draws in big fruit-eating birds. If offered, only provide small amounts in special fruit feeders with tailored perches.

Use Pest-proof Feeders

Electronic, weighted, or spring-closing feeders keep large birds out. Avoid overcrowding feeders that allow them to perch and hog space.

Scare Devices

Use reflective tape, plastic owls or hawks, or water sprayers to startle and scare off problematic flocks. Just be sure not to deter smaller birds too.

Stop Feeding

As a last resort, stopping feeding for two weeks causes pest birds to look elsewhere. Resume once they leave and prevent their return.

Add Roosting and Nesting Sites

Providing roosting spots gives birds a place to rest between feeder visits. Nesting sites offer further encouragement to stick around:

Roosting Pockets

Install wooden roosting pockets or mesh bags on poles and fences near your feeder for birds to rest in.

Brush Piles

Leaving small piles of pruned branches and twigs provides shelter. Birds nest in them and eat insects that live there.

Nesting Boxes

Put up nest boxes suited to birds you want to attract like bluebirds, wrens, swallows, woodpeckers, etc.

Natural Landscaping

Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers around your yard provides food, shelter, and nesting spots for a variety of birds.

Water Gardens

Install a small backyard pond or water garden. Birds drink, bathe, and snag insects at the water’s edge.

Dead Trees

Leave dead and dying trees whenever it’s safe. Woodpeckers nest in cavities and feed on insects in the bark.

Use Birdcalls and Other Attractors

Adding sounds, movement and food can pull in birds from farther away:

Bird Sound Devices

Devices that broadcast recorded birdcalls and songs catch birds’ attention. Rotate different species.

Moving Objects

Hang flashing ribbons, old CDs, metallic tape, or air dancers to catch birds’ eyes with flashing movement.

Water Drippers and Misters

Dripping or misting water is an appealing sound. Add a mister nozzle or drip some water into a tiny pond.

Food Away from Feeders

Toss some extra seeds, crumbs, or mealworms away from the feeder to entice shy ground birds.

Plant Fruiting Trees/Shrubs

Fruit trees like mulberry, serviceberry, holly, and elderberry provide natural treats.

Protect From Predators

Birds won’t linger if they feel threatened. Follow these tips to make your yard safer:

Site Feeders in Open Areas

Avoid dense foliage and enclosed spaces near feeders where predators can hide unnoticed.

Trim Back Branches

Prune back branches, brush, and vegetation surrounding feeders to remove stalking cover.

Use Predator Guards

Baffles and other guards prevent ambush by cats and other predators. Ensure rats/weasels can’t climb poles.

Limit Feeder Time at Dawn/Dusk

Only leave feeders out an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset when fewer predators are active.

Offer Protected Feeding Spots

Leave up a few protected feeders or roosting/nesting sites for safe refuge.

Maintain Cleanliness

Frequent cleaning keeps your yard healthy for the birds:

  • Keep feeders clean to prevent mold and bacteria. Wash with a weak bleach solution at least once per month.
  • Rake or sweep up old seed hulls, shells, and droppings to avoid disease.
  • Empty out and refresh birdbaths and water features 2-3 times per week.
  • Remove trash and secure garbage cans. Empty compost regularly to limit pests.
  • Keep pet food and livestock feed in sealed containers to prevent spoiling and vermin.

Be Consistent Over Time

Once you get birds coming, don’t jeopardize your progress:

  • Keep feeders filled consistently, not just when it’s convenient. Reliable food sources retain visitors.
  • Follow the same filling routine daily or weekly so birds learn the schedule.
  • Continue monitoring, tweaking, and finding the right food and habitats for new species.
  • Resist urgencies to overhaul feeders or landscapes. Gradual changes let birds adapt.
  • Don’t abandon efforts after just a few weeks. It takes time for bird populations to rebound from changes.

Appreciate All Birds

Not every species visiting your feeder may be your favorite, but they all have value:

  • Don’t discriminate against common birds like pigeons, grackles, and starlings. They need food too.
  • Different birds fill different roles in your backyard ecosystem.
  • A diversity of birds makes watching more surprising and exciting!
  • Avoid using insecticides and other poisons that inadvertently harm birds.
  • Simply opening our yards to nature, regardless of the species, benefits us all in the long run.

With the right techniques, a bit of effort, and some patience, you can create an attractive haven that brings a delightful variety of feathered friends to your new bird feeder. Observing their beauty, songs, behaviors and interactions will brighten any day. So try these tips and enjoy the sights and sounds of happy birds outside your window!

Frequently Asked Questions About Attracting Birds to a New Feeder

Here are answers to some common questions about getting birds to visit a new bird feeder:

How long does it take for birds to find a new feeder?

It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for birds to discover and get accustomed to a new feeder. Be patient. Make sure it’s filled with fresh seed and give them time to find it.

What time of day is best to fill bird feeders?

Early morning, right at sunrise, is an optimal time to fill bird feeders. Birds are active and hungry first thing in the morning so they will readily spot the fresh food.

Should feeders be cleaned? How often?

Yes, periodic cleaning helps keep feeders sanitary for visiting birds. Disinfect feeders with a weak bleach solution about once per month, or more often in warm weather.

Where should hummingbird feeders be placed?

Hummingbird feeders should be placed in a sunny spot, preferably with some shade midday when sun is intense. Keep them near flowering plants or trees that hummers are accustomed to visiting.

How can I stop squirrels from eating all the birdseed?

Use squirrel-proof feeders with weight sensitive perches, install baffles on poles, or add hot pepper powder to deter squirrels. Offer more safflower and nyjer seed which squirrels dislike.

What’s the best way to attract orioles, tanagers, and grosbeaks?

Offering fresh fruit, orange halves, grape jelly, or nectar mixes will attract these frugivore bird species. Having fruiting mulberry, elderberry, or serviceberry trees also helps.

How often should birdbaths be cleaned?

Birdbaths should be emptied, scrubbed, and refilled with fresh water every 2-3 days to keep them clean for visiting birds. Rinse well after using any cleaners.

What birds eat mealworms? How should they be offered?

Many birds like chickadees, robins, bluebirds, and woodpeckers will eat dried mealworms. Add them to platform feeders or sprinkle them on the ground.

Is it okay to feed birds bread or other table scraps?

No. Bread and other human foods offer little nutrition for birds and can promote bacterial growth. Stick to quality birdseed mixes, suet, nuts, fruit, and nectar.


Attracting a variety of birds to your yard begins with offering fresh food from clean, well-placed bird feeders. But it also requires catering to their needs for shelter, nesting spots, and protection from predators. Be patient, consistent and observant. Over time, your efforts will be rewarded with vibrant birdsong and movement outside your window! Provide food, water, and habitat, and birds are sure to find your new feeder.