11 Reasons Why Birds Have Stopped Visiting Your Feeders!
“Where did all my birds go?“
Having birds mysteriously disappear from your feeders is an extremely frustrating issue.
One week your backyard is full of different bird species, and you feel like you are a feeding expert!
But then, like a bad breakup, they seem to disappear without even saying goodbye. You’re left dumbfounded, looking out your window, wishing for the good old days! 🙂
So what happened? Why did the birds suddenly disappear from your feeders?
Well, since you can’t ask the birds in your backyard, you may never know for sure what’s wrong. But there are some common issues that do keep birds away, so you need to make sure none of the ones listed below is the problem.
Below is a checklist of 11 common issues that keep birds away.
Make sure you read tip #11, as it may be the most important one of all!
#1. You aren’t using the right foods.
Not all bird foods are created equal!
When you visit most stores that sells birdseed, you will find a vast array of different options, sizes, and prices. It’s human nature to look at the cheapest bag of food you see, which usually has beautiful pictures of birds on the bag, and buy it thinking you made a good decision.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong. To get the price as low as possible, many bird food manufacturers will use cheap filler grains. These foods are not eaten by most native birds that you want to attract.
To ensure you the widest variety of species keep visiting your feeders, follow the guidelines below:
Foods you SHOULD BE USING: Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts, Nyjer seeds, mealworms, and just a little bit of corn and white millet.
Foods that SHOULD BE AVOIDED: Milo, oats, canary seed, rice, flax, golden millet, red millet, buckwheat, and rapeseed. Most birds do not eat these grains, except for nonnative House Sparrows, which many people try to avoid attracting anyway.
#2. Your food isn’t fresh.
The reason the birds have stopped visiting your feeders might be because your food has gone bad.
Did you recently find a deal on birdseed that was too good to be true?
Well, the food may have been sitting there for a year or two and your birds don’t want to eat it! Just like us, birds want FRESH food.
Nyjer seed is especially susceptible to becoming old. Birds, like goldfinches, want the Nyjer seed to be fresh. If you were to crush one of these small, black seeds, you would want it to be a bit oily. If it’s super dry, then it’s probably going to sit uneaten!
#3. Your feeders are dirty.
It’s not a fun job, and it’s rarely convenient, but you MUST keep your bird feeders clean!
I am guilty of not keeping my feeders clean enough, especially if it’s been rainy at our house. You don’t want to see old, uneaten food or other caked-on debris on your feeders. If it’s really bad, you may even see mold! YUCK!
Birds will disappear quickly if your feeding station is gross.
Make sure that you routinely clean your feeders. When you see food building up, scrape it off and out before it becomes a problem.
Keeping your feeders clean will also keep birds safe!
If there are excessive amounts of bacteria or mold present, then suddenly your feeders become a place where disease can transmit easily. For example, dirty bird feeders were blamed for a salmonella outbreak in Washington state that affected many birds.
#4. You’re not keeping your feeders full.
Do you let your bird feeders run out of food and sit empty for days?
If so, this could be the reason that your birds are disappearing.
Just imagine if you were a bird. I’m sure you would visit feeding locations that were the most consistent when it came to having food.
You must keep your feeders full of fresh, delicious birdseed, or you risk your birds finding other sources.
#5. Your feeders aren’t in a safe 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.
Try to find a spot that provides nearby places to land, perch, or hide.
This location could be at the edge of the woods or near shrubs, trees, or fences. Try not to put your feeding station in the middle of a 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.
Here is where I placed my bird feeding station!
Check out the above video to get a tour of my backyard and bird feeding station. You can see how I placed my feeders very close to the edge of the woods, so my birds feel safe and offer numerous natural perching areas.
#6. There is a predator in the area.
Sometimes birds stay away from bird feeders because a predator is hanging around. The two most common culprits are hawks and outdoor cats!
The only guaranteed way to get rid of hawks and cats is to take down your feeders temporarily until they have gone away. I don’t love this solution because it only treats the symptom and not the problem.
The truth is that having a yard full of birds will almost always attract animals that want to eat those birds.
My strategy for keeping birds safe at my house is to focus on the habitat surrounding my feeding station. I make sure there is lots of protection nearby (read tip #5 above) that birds can retreat to if attacked. Learn more below:
#7. There are natural food sources available.
At my house, I have noticed that the number of birds at my feeders is cyclical, depending on the time of year.
For example, winter (and early spring) is when I can expect to see the most amount of birds. I live in Ohio, and the weather is very cold, so animals need additional energy to stay warm.
In addition, natural food sources are depleted in winter. Just think, there are no insects around (unless they are hibernating), and the birds have to rely on seeds, nuts, and berries that are still left from autumn. My feeders provide an easy, reliable food source!
But then, when late summer and fall arrive, I know that my feeders won’t be as busy. At this time, natural food sources are at their peak. Just think about it, every oak tree is producing acorns, flowers are maturing into seeds, along with an abundance of insects.
- RELATED: 32 Common Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds (Native, Easy To Grow)
Birds still visit my feeders in September and October, but the amount of food eaten is much less when compared to winter and early spring.
#8. Your neighbor has started feeding the birds.
Feeding birds is a popular hobby, and it continues to grow. Personally, I love the way that it helps bring more nature and wildlife into my yard. 🙂
But as more people feed birds, remember this means there are more places for them to eat.
For example, I live in a relatively large suburban neighborhood. As I drive around, I can tell you of at least FIVE other people nearby that also feed birds.
The reason your birds have disappeared from your yard could be that someone else nearby is also feeding them. And they might be offering fresher food, cleaner feeders, or a more protected area.
#9. You don’t have any water.
Having a fresh water source 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 will only 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.
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.
- RELATED: 12 BEST Bird Baths To Consider! (I own #5)
#10. Squirrels have taken over!
The reason birds are staying away from your feeders might be because squirrels have taken over!
Without some precautions, you may find that your “bird feeders” have become “squirrel feeders.” These large rodents can eat A LOT of food and can stay at your feeding station for hours.
- RELATED: The 10 Types of Squirrels in North America! (Learn which species visit backyards)
The problem is that birds are timider and will typically stay away if squirrels are on your feeders.
So what should you do?
Squirrels are a common problem for almost everyone. Try reading this guide below for help!
#11. Birds will be birds.
So if you have made it this far, and you are convinced that none of the reasons listed above is the issue with your birds, then I have bad news for you:
You may never know the exact reason that your birds have disappeared from your feeding station.
Birds will be birds.
The atmospheric pressure may have changed, or they found a new territory, or they migrated, or they died, or something else happened that we will never know about or understand.
Sometimes birds leave our feeders and move to other areas, and there is just nothing we can do about it. Remember, they have wings and can explore anywhere they want. 🙂
The BEST thing you can do is control what you can control and create a habitat that invites wildlife to come and stay. Place your feeding station near shelter. Keep your feeders clean and filled with fresh food. Provide a source of water. Plant as many native trees and plants as possible.
If you have done everything within your control, then the only thing left to do is have patience. 🙂
How do you keep birds from leaving your feeders and yard?
Leave a comment below!
Has anyone here ever seen gas leaf blowers drive away wild bird populations from an area? That may be happening to me. The only thing I can guess, is that the HOA park next door began using 2-stroke leaf blowers most mornings;.
From 2016 to 2022, I had so many cardinals, house finches and lesser goldfinches, I didn’t think I could keep up with feeding them all. We loved counting the number of cardinal broods we’d see each year. Three woodpecker species came to our backyard. Blue jays came for a daily bath.
The great Texas freeze of Feb 2022 decimated the wild bird populations here in Austin, but they were making a comeback. Or at least they were until mid-summer 2012 when, for no identifiable reason, they all vanished. Chickadees and black-crested titmice still come, and wren come when I put out meal worms. But everything else is completely AWOL.
Our bird bath is flushed daily. Our feeders go through the dishwasher periodically. We feed Tractor Supply black oil sunflower and safflower (if you haven’t used Tractor supply for seed and feeders, they’ve got freshest, best variety of bird seed I’ve found.)
Tammy – my suggestion is sprinkle Amonia on the inside of your Garbage Cans sprinkle particularly on top of your garbage bags – not a whole lot just enough close lids of cans Raccoons do not like that smell they will stay away from your property cause they hate that smell – make sure the Bird feeders are a long ways from the Garbage cans weekly so the Birds will not be bothered by the smell – intended for the raccoons to leave your property cause then the Raccoons will seek elsewhere – I love Raccoons they are so….cute but I do not want them near my Birds – now at my other house I feed a Raccoon on my Porch – each property is different 🙂 GOD bless you is my prayer
Oh yes and also for the table feeder you have to use at least 6ft , 4″ to 6″ PVC pipe, to put around the stake portion of your table feeder. This has been 100% effective in keeping the squirrels off the tray feeder and eating me out of house and home
I use a table feeder and have it away from any trees or bushes or shrubs and my roof of my house. This way I can put unsalted peanuts and those black sunflower seeds that the Jays and woodpeckers love, and then I use squirrel proof feeders for the smaller bird species and this works really good for me I also keep fresh water in a couple of bird baths. I love my birds
I’m surprised you did not mention PESTICIDES. Mine disappear when the neighbor sprays.
We have a squirrel box that they use. The sterling jays eat black seeds in a try below the squirrels box so the birds don’t steal the peanuts! Our squirrels eats black seeds on the bird house while another is eating peanuts! They all have learned to share! Plus we have a 3-tier water fountain for all to enjoy! Even the hummingbirds!
I am concerned about the bird flu. I have taken down my feeders and have been cleaning them. When can I put them back?
Squirrels find plenty to eat and it’s not cruel to squirrel proof. Your birdseed must not be as expensive as mine is!
I have had an abundance of orioles this spring! Chicagoland area https://share.icloud.com/photos/0890mmeYCEAqrm3P80LWMde7A
Hi, Matthew… I think they’re really cute, but I’m interested in feeding birds and when the squirrels come they make themselves at home in the feeders and eat and eat until they have almost decimated the food in the trays. They are entirely too greedy and the birds have nothing left. And THAT is why we squirrel proof our feeders. If I wanted to feed squirrels that’s what I’d do, but I want to feed birds.
I agree! I have squirrel proofed certain feeders that I want reserved for birds, but I always leave sunflower or corn out for the squirrels in they’re own feeder.
when u do something different the birds will not come back immediately. unfortunately, i cannot get golden safflower see and only white. my birds have been gone almost a week. they are very leery of change.
I really don’t mind the House Sparrows. In fact, there is even a family of European Starlings living in the hole in the roof of the house next door. They all seem to get along fine with the mourning doves, finches, and other birds at my seven feeders.
I live in Fairfield County CT and have a Red Shouldered Hawk that is often in my area along with an occasional brown bear. I put out the feeder in the winter and have lots of birds. But on warmer days when the snow has melted a bit, not so many birds visit my feeder. I suspect they are finding some natural things to eat instead.
I totally agree. I have squirrel baffles on all my feeders and they never bother them. I also put trays out for corn, bird seed, and sunflower seed. The squirrels and the birds get along quite well
I use Hungarian hot pepper I sprinkle on the oiled sunflower seed in my feeders. It works!!!!
Sebastián FL here again We do have 3 types of owls I can hear at night
Live in Sebastian FL For blocks and on next street no birds Don’t hear in the distance We have a hawk in the area for years but still had birds I think maybe not just the hawk Last summer saw a truck going down our street with plumes of nasty smoke When it reached me it was really bad and went inside Found out it was mosquito control which was stupid because not hitting anything Found out later they were claiming all natural sprays, pyrethrums! Duh! Look at a bottle somewhere Hazardous to humans, wildlife, birds! Idiots!
Please don’t squirrel-proof bird feeders. Like birds, you need to let them eat. If you want to keep squirrels away, give them their own feeder. They have their own liberty to eat. You need to feed them, not be cruel to them.
I have a similar problem as many have related. For the first time, I have read an intelligent,thoughtful article which answered All my concerns. My current guess is Hawks, but it could be others. I especially liked hint #11.
I will be patient and did sign up for the newsletter.
Two days ago I placed a feeder and birdhouse, on a pole, in my front yard. So far no birds! The seed is from last summer so I am going to give it a good cleaning and get some fresh high quality seed. If that doesn’t help then I will try a bird bath. Wish me luck!
A week ago we left for a vacation. At the end of May here in Indiana we have raccoons come at night. They destroy our feeders. So I take them in at night put them out next morning. I tend to my birds meticulously. I have many different kinds. The raccoons were the reason I was unable to leave out my feeders while away for a week. Today is my first day home and I have a few birds but I’m afraid many will not come back. Anyone out there with suggestions for me? Thanks!
Try this article: https://birdwatchinghq.com/raccoons-off-bird-feeders/
I live in Cornwall, Ontario along the St .Laurence River. Lots of Canada Geese here!
First – be happy that you have raptors in your yard! They keep all the healthy birds healthy when they remove old and sick birds. They may also be eating rats and mice that have been attracted by spilled seed.
Also, remember that in many parts of North America, the birds are beginning to breed, build nests, sit on eggs, etc. so you won’t be seeing as much of them until their babies are out of the nests. Remember that the babies of seed-eating birds often eat insects and grubs so their parents will be busy getting food for their youngsters. The parents will still eat but they may be coming to your feeders at different times of the day and they may be looking for high-protein and fats to eat, rather than seed.
Also – please keep your bird-baths and other sources of water clean and full. Raising baby-birds is a ‘dirty business’!
Where do you live? We live in Waterloo Ontario.
I had 9 feeders in my small yard (20 feet x 60 feet) all winter. Had loads of Red Polls, a few Juncos, a few Chickadees a few Amer. Goldfinches. Couldn’t keep the feeders filled quickly enough. I have been an avid birder for many years so follow all the suggestions regarding feeding stations. Now, all the birds have disappeared except for 3 Grackles who are feeding on the bird seed I have placed out for them. One woodpecker has returned & is eating the suet balls. That’s it!! I ALWAYS have Chickadees, no matter what. Not now!! This has been going on for weeks now, since the Red Polls left. Very strange. There are no changes in my neighborhood.
I was thinking of other reasons such as migration as well as the fact that during nesting season, sometimes birds will look towards live food more often to feed nestlings.
I live in Calgary, Canada. That city is ever growing in taking up and developing more and more prairie and woodland on the outskirts leaving more and more animals homeless every year. The trees in the new neighbourhoods are small newly planted and not enough for the many homeless birds. The irony of devouring miles of pristine Aspen forest, burning the piles of chopped trees and then naming the new residential district “AspenWoods”, excerpt the Aspen are gone and the birds are homeless! Big treeless housing districts.
It’s an eye opener!
I have been living on a larger lot and planted a lot of trees, trying to create an ecosystem to create some balance and homes for birds and other wildlife.It’s become a sanctuary. I am feeding about 80 pounds of black sunflower seed in a winter, the suet is on top of that, and some peanuts for the other creatures stigmatized as pests here ( homeless squirrels)
If I learned anything, once you start feeding and supporting these birds (and the squirrels will come too) they start relying on you and you become an important part of their food chain and survival. It’s not something you start and stop on a whim.
The demand changes all through the seasons, Birds from far neighbourhoods will visit my feeders in the winters. I call them the regulars. In the spring you get the passing through migrants. They stay for a few days to lavish after a long journey. I have flocks of 30 or more birds stay in my yard at times; cedar waxwings, robins, blackbirds to eat but all of the last Mountain Ash berry before they take off to their seasonal nesting places.
So , from crazy busy song and cheer to really quiet. Some birds are permanent feeders, some pass through, and come stay permanently to build their nest..
I welcome whoever wants to visit, I always have food and water ready….. for all birds at any time …, and the squirrels too….. or whatever other wildlife comes through the neighbourhood… I say cherish it while you can. You grandchildren may only see crows or pigeons.
I have a rule of abundance: there is enough for everyone! I give no preference to animals in need. My suggestion, keep several feeders with different offerings in different areas of your yard so grouping can take place. Hide some nuts or large sunflower seeds throughout your yard for the squirrels and they will leave your feeders alone, promise !
We also have had grackles show up last fall (and maybe crows too, I can’t really tell). They were roosting in trees all over our neighbourhood. The chickadees and finches seem to have disappeared but the grackles are now gone too. The city has torn out a lot of bush and trees along a creek near us and I am wondering if this might be part of the problem? The only birds I have seen recently are the cardinals. I think my bird feeders are reasonably clean and I have black sunflower seeds in them. I would appreciate any ideas. Thank you.
Great info. Thank you so much.
The birds have migrated south for the winter.
I have my flat tray feeder ..on a shrub @ My Front door..
I have the Sunflower seeds that Cardinal Birds like and have about 5 families eating daily.Apples & fruit 🍎.
I keep the tray clean and Supply good. They love it. (Activity is a joke I. The community)
They can get water close by ( small Lake) @ City park.
They visit @ day break & every 2 hrs in between w/ Last visit @ last dust of Subset.
I have very Happy Red Cardinal Birds. I have many wonderful Photo’s I get from inside window,
We have mockingbirds taking over. How do we get rid of them??
You have missed the most fundamental reason – climate change caused by human activities.
We have a couple Hawks that hunt our property and recently noticed a Bald Eagle. What a treat!! Now if we could just eliminate the 20 or so Grackles that have invaded us this year, life would again be great for our Woodpeckers
Loved it. I have just that problem. Maybe I finally figure out why the Birds left, and how to bring them back!