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 your feathered friends satisfied and feeling safe.
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.
For example, here is a LIVE look at part of my bird feeding station!
Birds are drawn to places that provide nutritious food, fresh water, and comfort.
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.
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.
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 Creating 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:
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, trees, 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 perching areas, food, and shelter.
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. Seriously, no wildlife lives in a yard that is just plain grass!
My recommendation is to do some landscaping around your yard with native trees, flowers, 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.
- Related: 28 Common Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds (Native & Easy To Grow)
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!
You want to avoid having birds colliding with your windows.
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.
I placed my bird feeding station on the edge of the woods, which offers countless natural perching areas and makes the birds feel safe. Lastly, the birds are viewable from our back windows AND close enough to my shed for easy refills.
Step #2: Select a few quality bird feeders.
You know what they say, the single most effective way to a bird’s heart is through their stomach. Or something like that, right? 🙂
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 first THREE types of feeders you should purchase.
If I were only able to have one bird feeder in my yard, then I would choose a hopper style. Hoppers are perfect for holding a general mix of bird food that appeals to a wide variety of species. If you were starting to create a bird feeding station, a hopper works well as a centerpiece that you can build other feeders around.
Platform / tray feeder
Tray/platform feeders come in dozens of different shapes and styles. They can be hung, mounted on a pole, or placed onto the ground. Trays can be added to tube feeders. Some platform feeders have built-in roofs installed overhead. Certain trays are plastic, and others are wooden.
Tube feeders are what many people picture when they think of feeding birds. As the name suggests, these types of feeders look like a long tube, but with feeding ports and perches spaced out on the tube which allow the birds to eat. Food and seed are filled from the top and slowly lower as it’s consumed through the ports.
To learn all types of feeders that I’m using, check out the below article:
Step #3: Fill those feeders with quality bird food.
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!
So what are the BEST bird foods to use?
If you want a successful bird feeding station, you need to fill your feeders with sunflower seeds, peanuts, nyjer, safflower, and suet. It’s also great to have a little bit of corn and white millet, but not too much. My advice is to experiment with different foods to see what your local birds prefer at your feeding station.
To learn a lot more about all the types of bird food, please read the following article!
Lastly, always check the ingredients on the back of the bag!
DON’T BUY BIRDSEED WITH MILO AND MILLET AS THE FIRST INGREDIENTS!
Just like the food you purchase to eat, it’s vital to check the ingredients of any birdseed mix you buy. Try to find mixes that have lots of sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and peanuts.
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 than a cheap shepherd’s hook, but I think the extra money is justified.
I recommend the Squirrel Stopper Pole. (Use code BWHQ to save 10%)
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.
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! The video above 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 and 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 hawks, 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. 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.
Step #6: Manage unwanted critters.
You can’t pick and choose which animals visit your bird feeding station.
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 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, are probably the most annoying. They combine the worst qualities of squirrels and House Sparrows. Starlings are aggressive and HUNGRY. They visit in huge numbers, chase away 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 a solution already exists.
When it comes to having a successful backyard feeding station, one of the best skills you can acquire is how to manage the species you DON’T want to visit.
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: Add helpful 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.
Metal storage bins:
I have five 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 metal, so mice or other rodents are not been able to chew through the side.
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 brushes: 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.
Seed Scoop: I own the below seed scoop made by Droll Yankees.
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.
What are your favorite tips?
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.
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!