Nov 14, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2017

Dear Birdsquatch: Why Are There No Birds At My Feeders?

Trying to understand why you have few—or no—birds at your feeder? There are a lot of potential explanations.
Share:

Dear Birdsquatch:

Why are there no birds at my bird feeders?

—Jim C., Rockford, Illinois

Dear Jim,

Did you ever watch that old TV show The Rockford Files? Was that filmed in your town? I don't get to watch much TV, being a sasquatch and all. We mostly spend our days in the lonely mountain forests. But occasionally I get some "tube time" in at empty, all-night laundromats and in the window displays of small-town appliance stores. Man, I love that show! It's right up there on my list of favorite things, along with blueberry pie, the songs of Leonard Cohen, and a good shagbark hickory trunk to use as a back scratcher.

There are a lot of potential answers to your question. Is your seed fresh? If you're using last year's seed, it might be stale, or hollowed out by weevils, or just plain yucky. Trying giving your feeders a good thorough cleaning and a refill with some new seed.

Another possibility is that your birds are finding ample natural food elsewhere. If there's an abundance of nuts, berries, grapes, and other natural foods that birds like, they should return once the natural stores are depleted later in the season, or when harsh weather comes.

Finally, you may have a birdscaring interloper visiting your backyard—perhaps an accipiter (usually a Cooper's or sharpshinned hawk) or a marauding cat. Any one of these creatures hunting your backyard will drive away birds temporarily. And once the birds are gone, the predator usually leaves, too. The hawks are part of nature's natural balance and should be left alone. They catch the weak, sick, naive, or slow birds and thus make the population more fit for survival.

Cats—don't get me started on cats. There's no reason why a cat—pet or feral—should be catching birds at a backyard feeding station. Look for piles of feathers to determine if there's a backyard predator present. If your culprit is a cat, I'd suggest catching it in a humane cage trap to see if it belongs to a neighbor. If so, you've got some neighborly convincing to do. If you don't wish to trap and handle the cat, get yourself a super-soaker squirt gun and fill it with a 50/50 blend of vinegar and water. Give the cat a good soaking (it's harmless but tastes and smells bad) and Fluffy will almost certainly never darken your yard again.

I don't really have any other good answers. Maybe this is a case for Jim Rockford?

Your buddy, B.S.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018
  • I had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018