I have been feeding a couple of magpies and their yearly offspring for about 3 years now. It’s entertaining, and I love the interaction with these remarkable birds. That made me think about bringing other birds to the garden which meant putting in a bird feeder and working out the best place for it.
This mostly entailed placing the bird feeder in a spot where we could see it from a good vantage point without scaring the birds away.
However, I knew that I needed to not just think of the ‘people’ aspect in this arrangement but also the bird’s safety and wellbeing. So after a bit of common sense and some research, this is what I came up with in terms of what to take into account when placing a bird feeder or I should say ‘bird feeders’ since I ended up adding more than one.
The best place to put a bird feeder is:
- somewhere where the birds will be safe from predators, such as cats or other wild animals
- in an area where you can see the birds from your viewing point
- in an area that is protected from the elements such as harsh sunlight and strong winds
- in a quiet area that doesn’t have a lot of people traffic or is near your garage or high traffic patios
- in a spot that is easily accessible to allow you to easily clean the bird feeder and the mess on the ground surrounding it
- preferably in a spot that is similar to the bird’s natural feeding area.
Now that’s a just quick overview on where you should place your bird feeder but there’s so much more to consider. So read on for more helpful information.
Provide a Safe Space
Birds will check out the area before they come to feed. They need to not only see where the feeder is situated but they also need to feel safe and confident enough to use the feeders you provide.
Offering wild birds an area where they can eat and feel protected from predators and the elements will definitely encourage them to return on a daily basis and thus your viewing pleasure will be enhanced.
Protecting Your Bird Feeder From Predators
Cats are probably the foremost killers of wild birds. If you have domestic cats then keep them inside in the morning and the evenings when birds are most likely to be visiting your bird feeder.
Don’t encourage wild cats into your backyard by feeding them. You really need to make the choice between feeding wild birds or stray cats. I doubt you can successfully do both.
I am experiencing this issue now with a cat that comes into my garden pretty much on an almost daily basis. He’s a beautiful cat and it looks like he wants to socialize but I know that if I start to feed him or make friends, he will be here constantly and the birds already get most upset when they see him.
To protect your visiting birds, you might try placing your bird feeder away from trees and large shrubs where cats can hide and pounce when ready to attack. A distance of around 10-15ft (3-4 metres) is generally recommended. That distance gives the birds a chance to escape from either an overhead attack or from a cat sneaking up on them .
My bird feeders are in a spot that gives the birds a wide field of view so they have a good opportunity of seeing anything coming at them.
There is a hedge directly behind them but it is dense and thick. It is often full of small birds like finches and sparrows as it provides good protection for them.
Keep Squirrels Away
Squirrels are another problem that you may have, and if you do, there are a number of ways to deal with this. Something to keep in mind is that squirrels can only jump around 5 ft from the ground, so make sure your bird feeder is situated higher than 5 ft.
You can also invest in a squirrel proof pole which includes a baffle that prevents these critters from climbing up. A simple idea but highly effective.
This is an example of one you can get on Amazon here that has excellent ratings. Everyone loves it!
This will stop them from climbing the pole but if they are jumping horizontally from a tree or fence, for example, they can jump a lot further (up to 7-8ft) so keep that in mind when you are placing your bird feeder.
However, if you can’t place your feeder with those distances in mind, there are many other ways you can keep your feeder safe from squirrels such as installing a squirrel guard.
Placing Your Bird Feeder Near a Window
Take care when placing your bird feeder near a window as you may have a startled bird fly into the window with disastrous effect.
Personally, I have noticed that the only time that birds have flown into my windows is when there has been a scuffle between them and they have flown away in a panic so it is pretty rare.
However despite it being quite rare, if you have the option it is best to place the bird feeder far enough away from the window to give the bird sufficient room to take off, but not enough room for them to pick up enough speed to cause injury if they hit the window.
Having said that however, I have seen window bird feeders like the one below (which you can get on Amazon here). This actually sticks to a window with suction cups. Not sure how well it would work but the reviews for it see to be pretty positive.
There doesn’t appear to be anyone as far as I can tell who has had the experience of birds flying into their windows as a result, although there are close to 9000 comments on this product and I wasn’t about to check them all out.
In fact, one of the reviewers made the comment that:
First of all, I want to dispel the myth that window bird-feeders are dangerous for birds. There are two reasons that birds collide with windows: Either they are trying to escape predators or are unfamiliar with the area.
I’m inclined to agree. It happens, but it is more often than not a bird in panic mode.
Is Your Bird Feeder Protected From the Elements?
Take into account the climate in the area that you live in. Is your area subject to strong winds, heavy rainfall, snow or harsh sun? Take all these elements into account when placing your bird feeder.
Placing your bird feeder in an area protected from the elements will ensure that the birds using it feel safe and it will also make it easier for you to maintain and refill the feeder as necessary.
Is Your Bird Feeder Away From Traffic But Where You Can View It?
The reason that you have placed a bird feeder (or multiple bird feeders) is generally because you want the pleasure of seeing your feathered friends enjoying the delights you have provided for them. So make sure the feeder is in a place where you can easily view what is going on.
Try to place the bird feeder away from high traffic areas, such as children’s play areas, garages where there is constant opening and closing of garage doors and high traffic patio areas. After all, just like us, birds generally like peace and quiet when they are eating and not being continually startled by sudden, unfamiliar noises.
My bird feeders are directly placed in line with my back full glass sliding doors. We can easily view them all the way back to the kitchen. This makes for a great vantage point.
There is enough distance between us and the birds so that they don’t fly away in fear even when we move up close to the glass doors. The feeders are about 20 feet (or 6 metres) away.
Is the Birder Feeder Easy to Clean and Refill?
Your bird feeder will need to be cleaned and refilled regularly so make sure it is placed in an area that is easy for you to reach.
Don’t place it so high from the ground that you need a ladder to reach it. You will be less likely to perform routine maintenance if you do.
And when things become a hassle it takes the pleasure out of the exercise. So place it where you can easily get to it.
A couple of mine are a little high up of the ground. I would prefer them a little lower so that I can see how much seed is actually in there. However, I was limited with the method I used to attach them to the fence.
The other two are much easier to get at so it makes them much easier to clean and much easily to refill.
Are Bird Feeders Messy? You Betcha.
Birds are really messy eaters, even worse than my kids were when they were small. It won’t be long before your bird feeder and the ground underneath it is full of empty husks, feathers, and even bird faeces. I find that birds aren’t too particular with their toileting habits.
The two messiest birds I have are the wood pigeons and the galahs. They tend to swish the seed around and off the feeder in order to get at the bits they like.
This has a lot to do with the type of seed I am currently using in those particular feeders. I find that if I use a different seed, they are less likely to push the seed aside to get at the bits they prefer.
Placing your bird feeder in among some flowers or natural shrubs will help disguise some of the ground mess. It also adds interest if you have plants and grasses of different heights. Apart from attracting different types of birds it will also provide areas of cover and nesting areas for your birds.
If you have a formal garden you may want to rethink placing your bird feeder in the middle of it. And, I would think twice about placing a bird feeder on the patio, that is unless you don’t mind cleaning the patio every day of seed and bird poop.
You will also find that some of the bird seed will sprout after time. This can be a good thing as the birds will feed on the seed heads in spring and this gives them fresh natural food to pick on.
Placing Multiple Bird Feeders
The amount of bird feeders you own will depend entirely on how many different types of birds you want to attract to your backyard. I started with one and now have six.
First the finches and sparrows came and then I added feeders to the area at different heights and used different types of food, so now I have galah’s, king parrots, rosella’s and wood pigeons visiting on a daily basis.
The magpies and currawong still come as well. They have set up their own natural pecking order and its a delight to watch them come to eat. There is the odd squabble for dominance over the feeders but on the whole it works well.
So don’t limit yourself to one feeder, in fact I’m sure that once you have found the ideal spot in your garden for your feeders, you will add more.
What if the Birds Don’t Come
After all, just placing your feeder doesn’t necessarily mean that the birds are going to find it, so if you find that birds aren’t arriving to partake of the goodies you have provided, you may need to look at moving the feeder.
Maybe the birds don’t feel safe using the feeder where it is positioned.
- Have you taken the surrounding area into account?
- Have any predators been dealt with?
- Is the bird feeder protected from the elements?
- Are you maintaining the feeder on a regular basis?
- Have you undertaken the removal of any trees or shrubs in the area?
- Has there been any land clearing in your local area that may effect the number of birds living there?
Another thing to consider is the quality and variety of the food you are providing.
As you can see there are a number of things that can have an effect on whether or not birds come to your bird feeder. But generally, once you have your bird feeder in place, birds will come.
So sit back and enjoy your backyard bird watching experience.