Increasing your number of feeders is always a good idea – once birds know food is on offer it will become very popular, but that popularity has a downside. Too many birds clamoring at one feeder can result in arguments over territory leading to lethal fights, and more tragically, disease. Too many creatures in close proximity at one time creates the perfect storm for the transmission of diseases; entire bird populations can be devastated in days.
In this guide we give you a few tips on how and where to set up a new feeder and how using your old ones can help that introduction go more smoothly.
Older means more experienced
Putting up a new feeder is exciting: some of you may be lucky and it’s an instant hit. But for many of us the excitement can turn to disappointment when we see that our feathered friends just aren’t checking it out. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the main one to consider is Stranger Danger. Birds are creatures of habit – they have to be, it’s what makes a huge part of their lives safe. An alien object in an otherwise perfectly memorized environment is suspicious.
If you’ve had regular visits to your old feeder, this simply means one thing – the birds have had a safe experience there many times. If there’s a reason why you must remove your old feeder, swapping it straight out for the new one can create confusion, despite it being in exactly the same place: it will look, feel and smell different. By leaving your old feeder where it is, even if it is broken, and placing your new feeder close by, you are not completely changing the safety of the environment; birds eventually adjust to the new character in their midst. If you can still use the old one, gradually reduce the amount of food you put in it at the same time as increasing food in the new one, and monitor activity. Once they start to use the new one, after a week or so take away the old one and fill your new one right up.
If you are just adding a new feeder, place it close by the old one and set out more food in the new than the old one as above, gradually moving the new feeder further away from the old one; increase the food in your old one again when you see the birds following your new one as well.
Location, location, location
Depending on how much space you have, finding a good spot for your new feeder can be a challenge, so take a good look around. Are there places for the birds to hide such as branches, undergrowth or hedges should a predator come past? Placing a feeder way out in the open may help you to see them better, but will be a major no-no for the birds.
Placing a feeder near cover can also have one wonderful consequence – birds will nest close by come breeding season, having food and safety ticked off the list.
If you are mounting your feeder onto a fence or a wall, just be mindful of any access points that predators such as cats can utilize. Also, be sure to minimize movement: birds aren’t that keen on swinging all over the place to grab a bite to eat. Pole mounting can be a great idea, too.
If there are windows, place feeders either very close, less than three feet, so that birds won’t hit the window hard enough for serious injury as they reduce their speed to land, or much further away, more than 10 feet - distant feeders provide enough room to safely maneuver.
Stock that feeder with the finest seeds known to man. OK, bird. Read our bird seed guide on what is best to provide at certain times of the year, but whatever you do, don’t skimp on the expense. Some store-bought seed mixes contain items that birds simply don’t want to eat; your feeder could be prime real estate with beautiful vistas and close-by amenities to match, but if the food on offer is only fit for the gutter, no one will come by, and word will get around, believe us.
Patience is the key
It can take time for birds to get used to a new feeder, especially if it varies in shape and color to your old ones. It’s not unusual for some birds to take weeks to be happy about going to it. Also bear in mind the time of year and where you live – they may not be coming anymore because they’ve simply migrated, and will be back next season.
By taking the steps we list above it shouldn’t be too long before you will have frequent visits and happy birds – and more trips for you to the bird feed store.