“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 sell 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 your feeders can 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.
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!