When starting out feeding birds, it’s important to consider the location of your feeder. It’s very tempting to put the feeder near that perfect viewing window so you can easily watch birds visit your feeder. However, that might not be setting you up for success as birds can be picky about where they feed.
Many birds prefer feeders that are near trees with lower branches (e.g., small evergreens or dogwoods) or large shrubs (e.g., Mountain Laurel). This is due to safety for the bird. Songbirds don’t like to be out in the open with no place to hide because it makes them easy targets for predators. Even when they are out foraging on the ground, they are not too far from somewhere to hide if something startles them. For the same reason, some birds prefer flying down to the feeder, grabbing a seed or nut, and flying into a close tree or bush to eat it. So, look around your yard to see if you can locate a good place for your feeder where birds can comfortably feed.
Once you have chosen your location, the next step is selecting the ideal seed. A blend is always a great choice because different birds prefer different seeds and most prefer a variety. If you select one with a good portion of black oil sunflower seeds and/or peanuts, you will see increased activity, especially from common feeder birds in our area. Both have a high amount of fat and protein which are in demand by songbirds.
Finally, consider the time of year that you are trying to start. Although birds will visit established bird feeders throughout the year, it can be a little tricky getting birds to start visiting feeders if you put the feeder out when there is plenty of native food available. This includes late spring, summer, and fall. Birds prefer native food, including insects and worms, to most seeds we provide and will be less inclined to visit a feeder. Winter and early spring are the best times to start feeding the birds because the weather can be cold and wet, native foods are hard to find, and many wild birds are preparing to migrate. This means they are actively hunting for any food they can find, including your new bird feeder! Once your feeder is a trusted feeding station, you can leave it out all year and see plenty of frequent visitors.