Creating a bird feeding station in your backyard is a bit more complicated than just hanging a bird feeder and filling it with some cheap food you found at the store.
Birds are dynamic creatures with both needs AND wants. If you’re going to attract the widest variety of species possible, you need to learn how to be a fantastic host that leaves our feathered friends satisfied and feeling safe.
*Jump Ahead –> 7 Steps To Creating a Bird Feeding Station*
Just think when you go on vacation. Do you prefer to stay at a Motel 6? Or would you rather stay at the Four Seasons hotel?
Birds are not that much different than us (ignore the pooping on cars thing). The better their needs are met, the more likely they are going to visit.
Birds are drawn to places that provide nutritious food, fresh water, and comfortability.
Today, you will learn how to design a bird feeding station that birds can’t resist. They are literally going to flock (pun intended!) to your backyard if you follow the plans listed below.
But first, let’s answer this question:
What is a bird feeding station?
At its core, a bird feeding station is an area in your backyard that is dedicated to attracting birds, primarily by providing food and water.
Your bird feeding station plans can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You can spend a lot of money or almost none at all. Everybody has different goals for their backyard.
For example, here is a LIVE look at part of my bird feeding station!
I’m a firm believer that the plans you have for your backyard will change over time, but that is part of the fun! I love experimenting with different idea’s, tactics, and techniques. I’m always changing foods and feeders hoping to add more birds to my “yard list.”
The 7 Steps to Create a Bird Feeding Station
Step #1: Location, location, location!
Finding a fantastic location in your backyard is critical to having a successful bird feeding station. You can have the best bird feeders, food, or pole in the world, but it won’t matter much if the birds are hesitant to visit.
You need to consider the needs of the birds you are trying to attract.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you search your backyard for an appropriate feeding station location:
Try to find a spot that provides nearby places to land, perch, or hide.
This could be located at the edge of the woods or near shrubs, tree’s, or fences. If possible, don’t put your feeding station in the middle of your barren yard.
Birds like to feel safe and have a quick getaway in case of predators. Many birds (such as cardinals) will hang out in shrubs or trees around your feeders until they feel comfortable enough to come out and eat.
Use native plants to offer additional perching areas.
If your yard is open and does not offer many areas for birds to perch or take cover, it may be time for you to create spots for them.
My recommendation is to do some landscaping around your yard with native trees and shrubs. Native plants not only provide birds with perching and hiding areas, but they also attract more insects than exotic species, which offers a natural food source.
Don’t place your bird feeding station too close to a tree or fence.
It needs to be far enough away from anything that squirrels could use as a launchpad to access the food!
Make sure the feeders are a safe distance from your house!
This helps prevent birds from colliding with your windows. If you have an issue with collisions, try placing decals made by WindowAlert on your windows. View/Buy on Amazon
The rule of thumb is to place feeders at least 10 feet away from your house OR within 3 feet. This is because most collisions happen when birds get frightened and fly off quickly from your feeding station. If the feeding station is at least 10 feet away from your home, birds typically have time to realize they are heading straight for a window and veer in a different direction.
On the flip side, if the feeding station is very close (within 3 feet) to your house, then birds don’t have space to get enough momentum where they can hurt themselves on the window.
Lastly, keep yourself in mind!
- Can you easily see the birds and feeders from your preferred window, patio, or deck?
- Are the feeders easily accessible to fill and clean? I put my feeding station near a shed that stores my bird food, which makes refilling simple and convenient.
Here is where I placed my bird feeding station!
For example, here is an aerial view of my backyard. I placed my bird feeding station on the edge of the woods, which offers countless natural perching areas, but it’s far enough from any tree’s so squirrels can’t leap to my feeders. Lastly, the birds are easily viewable from our back windows.
Step #2: Select a few quality bird feeders.
You know what they say, the single most effective way to a birds heart is through their stomach. Or something like that? 🙂
Regardless, hanging a few feeders is the foundation when setting up your bird feeding station (hence the name!). Almost everything else on this list is negotiable, but you have to provide a source of food to see birds consistently.
To attract an array of different species, here is my recommendation for the five different types of bird feeders you should use in your backyard.
- Hopper feeder
- Platform / tray feeder
- Nyjer seed (finch) feeder
- Related post: Finch Feeders: The 3 Types Working Best For Me
- Suet feeder
- Related post: 6 Types of Woodpecker Feeders That Your Birds Will Love
- Nectar feeder
- Related post: The 8 Best Hummingbird Feeders (That Actually Work!)
To learn more, check out the below article.
Step #3: Fill those feeders with quality bird food.
Bird food is not created equal.
This statement is so important it’s worth repeating.
Bird food is not created equal!
It’s human nature to buy the cheapest item in a store, and bird food is no different. There are lots of bird seed mixes on the market that are incredibly inexpensive. The problem is that the birds you are trying to attract won’t eat half of the junk in most of them!
Cheap general bird seed mixes have lots of filler that most birds won’t eat.
Here are some common filler seeds that you should try to avoid:
*Milo: This seed is the most common way to fill up a bag of bird food cheaply. Milo is inexpensive and an easy way for manufacturers to lower the price.
The problem is that almost no birds eat milo! The few exceptions are House Sparrow’s, grackles, and doves, which is a bit ironic since many people try to prevent these birds from coming to their backyard in the first place!
*Wheat: Another common ingredient to fill up bird food bags. Very few birds eat wheat.
*Oats: Blackbirds (grackles, starlings) will eat oats, and that is the end of the list of birds that do!
Some of the best foods to use are black-oil sunflower, peanuts, nyjer, safflower, and suet. My advice is to experiment with different foods to see what your local birds prefer at your feeding station.
Always check the ingredients on the back of the bag!
Just like the food you purchase to eat, it’s vital to check the ingredients of any bird seed mix you buy. Recently I took a trip to a local hardware store to check out the quality of the bird food they were selling, and the results shocked me.
Take a look at the picture of the ingredients below of the “National Audubon Society Wild Bird Food” blend that was sitting on the store’s shelves in bulk.
The #1 ingredient is milo!!! So this bag of food is filled with something that almost no birds even eat!
It doesn’t get much better with the second ingredient, which is white millet. Only a few birds, such as sparrows and doves eat millet.
Here is a picture I snapped through the bag. Sorry for the poor quality but there was a 0% chance I was going to waste my money and purchase to get a better photo.
As you can see, the overwhelming majority of the bag consists of milo and white millet! Just for fun, the manufacturers added a few sunflower seeds and bits of cracked corn (Along with some sticks and other debris!).
Even though this bird food was very inexpensive, most of the bag won’t be eaten and is a massive waste of money and resources.
To be honest, I am a bit shocked that the National Audubon Society would put their name on such an inferior product! I have so much respect for them as an organization and have been a member for years; I figured they would know better than to attach themselves to such poor bird food.
To summarize, it’s essential to consider the type of bird food you offer at your bird feeding station!
If you buy a general bird seed blend, try to make sure it contains some combination of sunflower seed, safflower, peanuts, corn, and maybe a small amount of white millet.
Step #4: Install a sturdy bird feeder pole.
I’m a big fan of having a sturdy and tough bird feeder pole. It’s going to cost a bit more to acquire up front than a cheap shepherds hook, but I think the cost is justified.
I own the Squirrel Stopper Pole, and it’s where I hang most of my bird feeders. It is the center of my bird feeding station.View Today's Price
I love it because it does its job.
The pole is durable and can hold up to 8 feeders with no problems. The base screws deep into the ground with the included auger, so the wind won’t knock the Squirrel Stopper down.
I love the way it looks in my backyard with its black finish, thick steel poles, and cardinal topper.
And most importantly, it prevents squirrels and raccoons! The Squirrel Stopper pole comes with a spring loaded baffle that makes it impossible for any critter to get past! This video demonstrates how it works!
Step #5: Provide water.
Having a fresh source of water is one of the best things you can do for your backyard birds.
Think about this:
When you hang a feeder in your backyard, you are only going to attract the species of birds that eat that specific food. Only certain birds are considered “feeder birds.” Many species will never visit your feeding station regardless of the food you offer.
But guess what?
All birds need to drink water!
In addition, birds also like to bathe periodically to clean their feathers.
It’s incredibly beneficial to provide a fresh water source, such as a birdbath, at your bird feeding station. A bird bath will not only attract species that don’t typically visit feeders, like warblers, but it is going to make all the birds that visit your backyard happier and more likely to keep returning.
Here are a few words of advice when it comes to bird baths:
- The water needs to be changed regularly. If not, it’s going to become a breeding ground for bacteria and look gross.
- Your bird bath needs to be cleaned often with a brush and bleach. My routine is to scrub out my bird bath once for every two times that I change the water.
- Moving water tends to work best and seems to grab the attention of birds that are just passing by. This can be accomplished with a pump placed inside the bird bath or by buying a fountain that is designed for birds.
- Make sure to plan for the winter months, especially when the temperature drops below freezing. You are going to need a heated bird bath or a heating device that you can place in your bird bath.
Unfortunately, providing a source of water in a bird feeding station is typically ignored.
My guess is the extra work that is required to change the water and keep the bird bath clean keeps people away.
But take it from me, the extra effort is going to pay off big time, and you will be able to add some new species to your “yard list” soon after providing a constant source of water.
Step #6: Prevent unwanted critters.
Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose which animals visit your bird feeding station.
You probably imagine beautiful songbirds like cardinals and goldfinches singing in your backyard. Or you’re dreaming about the bluebirds that may decide to call your yard home and raise their babies.
Unfortunately, a bird feeding station will also attract critters that can become a nuisance.
Squirrels are cute at first. But then they start jumping on your feeders to devour all of your expensive bird food.
House Sparrows can become so numerous that they take over your feeding station, and you wonder if any other birds still exist!
And blackbirds, such as starlings and grackles, are probably the most annoying. They combine the worst qualities of squirrels and House Sparrows. Blackbirds are aggressive and HUNGRY. They visit in huge numbers, chase away (even killing) other birds, and make sure there is no food left over for anyone else to eat.
Luckily, no matter what problem you encounter in your backyard, someone else has probably faced the same challenges, and simple solutions already exist.
My recommendation is to observe your bird feeding station and see what issues arise. Then come back to Bird Watching HQ and find the appropriate solution!
Step #7: Checklist of feeding station supplies & accessories.
Over time I have accumulated specific supplies that have helped with the maintenance and upkeep of my bird feeding station.
Please excuse the randomness, but here is a list of some of the things I found as I went through my shed, garage, and home that help in some way.
Plastic storage boxes: I have two of these in my shed big enough to hold 50-pound bags of black-oil sunflower and corn. The storage boxes that I bought are thick plastic, so mice have not been able to chew through the side. If mice become a problem for you, consider a metal storage option.
5-gallon buckets: These versatile buckets are used in a few different ways. First, they are great for bird food storage. I have found if a bag of seed is 20 pounds or under, I can typically fit the whole thing in a 5-gallon bucket. Make sure you buy a lid!
I also have a 5-gallon bucket designated to help clean my feeders and bird bath.
Cleaning brush: Used to clean my feeders and bird bath. For easy storage, it sits in a 5-gallon bucket that is explicitly used for cleaning.
Bleach: Periodically it’s necessary to clean your bird feeders in a diluted bleach solution. The bleach is kept inside a 5-gallon bucket that is used solely for cleaning, just like the cleaning brush.
It is slightly more expensive than other scoops on the market, but it works wonderfully. It’s made of thick plastic, so I can scoop away and not worry about it breaking. The small end also makes filling my tube feeders extraordinarily convenient and easy!
Knife: Opening up bags of bird food can be a real pain if you don’t have something sharp laying around. I can’t tell you how many times I poked a hole or ripped the bag open with my hands only to have seed spill everywhere.
This article’s purpose was to provide the foundations for a successful backyard bird feeding station.
I hope the 7 steps detailed above provide some actionable plans or ideas that you can use immediately.
But setting up your bird feeding is just the beginning of the fun!
I love experimenting with new ideas in my backyard. I am always trying different bird feeders, foods, and bird baths, to name a few of the endless possibilities.
For example, if you’re looking for something amusing, try a window bird feeder!
Another thing to remember is that everyone has different goals and plans for their feeding station.
It’s okay if you only want to hang one bird feeder. It’s also fine to become obsessed and have a shed full of bird seed, nest boxes, feeders, and other accessories. (Speaking from experience 🙂 ) Don’t be surprised if after your first bird feeding station goes well, you get the itch to add a second!
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best in your endeavor and hope you’re able to attract a yard full of beautiful birds!