How to Attract Birds to Feeder

Encourage more birds to come eat in your backyard with our expert-backed guide

Your bird feeder is all set up in your yard and filled with delicious seeds—so why haven’t your feathered friends stopped by for a meal yet? There are tons of simple things you can do to get birds to come to your feeder and even attract some new species to your yard. Once you finish reading this article, you’ll know all the best tricks to make birds eat from your feeder and keep them come back for more.

[Edit]Things You Should Know

  • Scatter seeds near your feeder to help birds see them better.
  • Try switching feeds. Try sunflower seeds for all birds, millet for doves and sparrows, thistle seed for finches, peanuts for crows, and suet for chickadees.
  • Place your bird feeders close to plant cover where birds can hide from predators and build their nests. Keep a small bowl or bird bath with water nearby.
  • Throw away any seeds that have been sitting out for 2 weeks or longer, and then clean your bird feeder.


[Edit]Scatter seeds around your feeder.

  1. Spreading seeds helps birds see your feeder better. If you just put up a new bird feeder, then there’s a chance the birds haven’t found it yet. Take a handful of birdseed and scatter them over the ground. If the feeder has a flat top, but a few seeds on it as well so birds flying by can spot them.[1]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 1.jpg
    • This works especially well if you’re feeding birds in the winter since the seeds will be easy to spot on top of the snow.

[Edit]Switch to a different feed.

  1. New types of seeds can attract different species to your feeder. Rather than using commercial seed mixes that have a lot of ingredients that birds find undesirable, use a single type of feed depending on what birds you want in your yard.[2] If you want to attract a wide variety of birds, then start by filling your feeders with black sunflower seeds.[3]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 2.jpg
    • Get white proso millet if you want to attract doves, juncos, or sparrows. Avoid red proso millet since birds don’t usually enjoy it.[4]
    • Fill feeders with thistle seed if you want to get more finches in your backyard.
    • Try offering peanuts or sunflower seeds to attract crows or blue jays.[5]
    • Use suet cakes to feed chickadees, woodpeckers, jays, and nuthatches.[6]
    • Make sugar water for hummingbirds by boiling of water and adding 1 cup (200 g) of sugar. Let the water cool before you use it in your feeders.[7]

[Edit]Set up a bowl of water nearby.

  1. Birds need a place to drink and bathe after they eat. Put a flat-bottomed bowl or bird bath in the area near your food. It doesn’t matter if the water is in the sun or shade as long as the birds can easily access it.[8]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 3.jpg

[Edit]Move your feeder to a new spot.

  1. Your feeder may deter birds if they think the spot is unsafe. If you just put up your feeder, wait at least 2 weeks for birds to find and get used to it. Find a new spot in your yard for the feeder where you can easily get a view of all the birds on it. Try putting the feeder at a different height as well to attract birds that normally feed in the treetops or shrubs.[9]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 4.jpg
    • Keep your feeders within about of windows to help prevent birds from running into the glass and getting injured. Alternatively, cover your windows with anti-collision decals to keep birds away.[10]
    • Try to keep your feeder within of shrubs, tall grass, or other plant cover. That way, birds will feel more comfortable eating from your feeder knowing they can make a quick getaway from any predators.[11]

[Edit]Install baffles to keep pests away.

  1. Baffles prevent squirrels and rodents from getting into the bird seed. Start by putting your feeder up on a metal pole that’s at least tall to keep animals from getting to it.[12] Put up a baffle, which looks like a large metal dish or bowl, over the feeder so pests can’t reach the seeds.[13]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 5.jpg
    • Baffles are especially important if you hang your feeder from a tree since squirrels could easily climb down and get to it.[14]
    • If you’re feeding hummingbirds, it may attract ants instead. Deter the ants by putting an ant moat, which is a small cup of water, on the feeder’s hanger.

[Edit]Hang a variety of feeders.

  1. Different feeders draw in new species of birds to your yard. Rather than only putting one type of feeder out, try out a few kinds to see what birds start using it. When you see a bird that you want to keep coming back, note which feeder it’s using so you can put more of them up.[15]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 6.jpg
    • Platform feeders have large, flat trays where you spread out the seeds. These work best near ground level for attracting cardinals, chickadees, mourning doves, jays, and finches.
    • Tube feeders have a tall vertical tube filled with seeds and multiple perches where birds can feed. Tube feeders are perfect if you want finches, cardinals, nuthatches, and other small songbirds in your yard.
    • Suet feeders are usually small cages you can hang on a post or on a tree to feed woodpeckers, chickadees, and jays.
    • Thistle feeders are small tubes or bags where birds can only take one seed at a time and are specifically designed for thistle seeds.
    • Hummingbird feeders have tanks for sugar water and small perches, but they don’t attract any other bird species.

[Edit]Replace old seeds every 2 weeks.

  1. Birds won’t eat seeds that are wet or moldy. Inspect the seed that’s inside the feeder you’re using to make sure there isn’t mold growth or insect infestations. Dump out all of the old seeds and fill the feeder with fresh food. Don't forget to clean up any seeds that have fallen on the ground around the feeder as well.[16]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 7.jpg
    • As a good rule of thumb, replace all of the seeds inside of the feeder every 2 weeks so it stays fresh.
    • Cleaning out old seeds also helps prevent diseases and bacteria from spreading between birds.

[Edit]Disinfect your bird feeder twice a month.

  1. A clean feeder prevents moldy seeds and the spread of disease. Make a cleaning solution that’s 9 parts water and 1 part bleach. Take your bird feeder down, empty out the old seeds, and scrub the surface to kill any bacteria or mold that’s on the surface. Let the feeder dry completely before you refill it.[17]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 8.jpg

[Edit]Add nesting spots nearby.

  1. Birds will prefer eating from feeders close to their nests. Build or buy a birdhouse and place it in your yard or garden. If you don’t want to use a birdhouse, encourage birds to nest in your yard by providing them with ample dense shrubs and tree cover. Don’t be afraid to leave nesting materials, like small twigs, in your yard so birds start building their homes nearby.[18]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 9.jpg
    • Nesting spots are especially important for birds trying to stay warm during the cold winter nights.

[Edit]Plant native species in your yard.

  1. Native plants make your yard more attractive to local birds. Look up the plants that natively grow in your area rather than planting exotic or invasive species in your landscaping. Since native plants help provide more food for birds, they may fly into your yard and start using the feeder you put out. Pick things like native flowers and fruit trees that produce seeds so the birds have more things to eat.[19]
    Attract Birds to Feeder Step 10.jpg
    • Contact your local extension office or look up what plants and bird species are native to your area.


  • Check your feeders during the early morning or around dusk since that’s when birds are usually more active.[20]
  • Birds don’t use feeders as much during the summer, fall, and early winter since they could eat other natural food sources.[21]


  • If you see a bird that has closed eyes, breathing problems, or fluffed feathers, it may be sick.[22] Take your feeder down until any sickly birds disperse so they don’t spread diseases when they eat.[23]
  • Keep pet cats indoors so they can’t hunt any wild birds that come to your feeders.[24]


  3. [v161754_b01]. 13 May 2021.
  5. [v161752_b01]. 31 March 2021.
  7. [v161754_b01]. 13 May 2021.
  12. [v161752_b01]. 31 March 2021.
  14. [v161754_b01]. 13 May 2021.
  21. ​​

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