12 Essential Tips to Keep Birds Flocking to Your Backyard Feeder

Feeding birds can be a delightful and rewarding experience, especially when your feeders attract a variety of feathered visitors. However, maintaining a busy bird feeder requires ongoing effort. Over time, you might notice that fewer birds are stopping by.

Do you want to keep backyard birds coming back to your feeder? Discover 13 essential tips to attract and retain birds, including keeping feeders restocked, using quality birdseed and nectar, adding diverse feeders, landscaping with bird-friendly plants, adding a source of water, protecting feeders from predators, and ensuring a safe environment. Follow these steps to create a thriving haven for bird.

keep birds coming back to your feeder
Black-chinned Hummingbird in the garden. Photo: Diana Robinson/Flickr/CC by 2.0

Back in the day, when my feeder was the hot new goss in Bird Town, I would see at least 6 different species eating their way merrily throughout the day.

Dashing red cardinals swooped down from the branches of a nearby tree to delicately feed the youngster that accompanied them. Suddenly chased away by aggressive blue jays, who grouped almost four at a time to take part in the feast.

Finally, they knew their time was up when a stoic red-bellied woodpecker claimed his rightful place as temporary king of the feeder.

This fanciful feathered scene would take place almost every day as I watched, sipping my morning coffee from the back porch.

Unfortunately, as time went on, this dynamic scene played out less and less.

Soon, only a few birds could be bothered to show up to my seedy banquet. What was wrong?
I thought. Was my feeder not good enough? Were the birds tired of me? Had some (sexy?) new feeder gone up that I didn’t know about?? Amidst my bird-driven anguish, I took to the internet in hopes of rooting out the mystery to my missing backyard birds.

Much to my surprise, It wasn’t someone else stealing away my seed spotlight, but that I was, in fact, doing it to myself. Along the way, I began to compile a list of 10 easy ways to bring back my birds and how to attract even more species to my backyard morning show.

1.- Keep feeders restocked so that birds rely on your yard as a source of food.

We all know that life can get so hectic that our feeders fall to the last place in our mental priority lists. Fortunately, our feathered friends don’t seem to mind an empty feeder running on its second or third day.

Leave it for too long, though, and you’ll find that your selection of reoccurring customers becomes slim pickings. Our backyard friends want commitment, and the easiest way to their hearts is through a consistent feeding schedule.

Take a few minutes in your morning schedule to regularly fill up your feeder, and your backyard pals will be sure to return the favor.

food for backyard birds
Food birds love.

2.- Don’t skimp on birdseed and other bird food.

When choosing which ingredients to feed our friends and family, we always opt to use the freshest and tastiest materials.

The same principle can be applied to the pallets of our backyard feeding frenzy.

Cheaper seed, often riddled with oats, cracked corn, or milo, can have a bad aftertaste for our backyard customers. Knowing this, birds will often toss aside less than admirable seeds, and unless you want the secret garden growing around your feeder, it is best to purchase seeds with higher quality ingredients.

After identifying the species of birds, you hope to attract to your yard, do some research into which type of seeds cater the most to their tastes.

By placing their favorite dish onto the feeder, these birds will be forming a line around the block to get a seat at your five-star restaurant.

Related: A Guide to Bird Food & Feeder Preference

2.- Cater to more species of birds by using a variety of bird feeders.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that although my feeder’s open style concept became the favorite of many species in my area, not all enjoyed such open-air dining. Some birds even preferred a more liquid diet that enticed them to spend a meal in my yard.

For example, Hummingbirds would flit by surrounding flower patches and yet never bothered with the stand-alone food. Unlike solid open-air feeding, these birds preferred delicate nectar feeders to satisfy their needs.

The same followed with goldfinches, woodpeckers, and orioles that were all more attracted to feeders that catered to their specialized diet and preferences. Once I began to place mealworms in dishes and jelly feeders across my yard space, these types of birds could not get enough of my backyard living.

Related: See a List of Popular Bird Feeders.

blue jay eating bread
Blue Jay eating bread. Photo: Carole/Flickr/CC by 2.0

4.- Provide a source of water.

Water is essential for birds, not just for drinking but also for bathing. Adding a birdbath or a shallow dish of water can significantly increase bird activity in your yard.

Ensure the water is clean and changed regularly to prevent algae buildup and mosquito breeding. During winter, consider using a heated birdbath to provide a constant source of fresh water.

By offering a reliable water source, you can attract a wider variety of birds and keep them coming back to your yard for food and hydration.

5.- Use the appropriate ingredients and proportions to make nectar for hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are perhaps one of the most colorful birds that I get to see joyfully flit around my backyard. With their wings working so hard to keep us entertained, the feed provided must be prepared properly.

Thankfully, satisfying this customer’s need is as sweet and simple as sugar. We can provide proper sugar concentration for our little friends by just sticking to plain white sugar sweetener.

Using the right hummingbird recipe can help to avoid the risk of a nutrient deficit or a fatal mold caused by other sweeteners.

House Finch in the winter.

6.- Offer food for summer as well as fall and winter birds in your area.

As seasons transition, we begin to change our habits and routines, moving from shorts to winter coats and back again. These same changes are perfectly demonstrated by looking through the glass to our backyard feeder.

As winter begins to set in on our area, we may see fewer and fewer returning birds.

Although this scene may cause us to believe that our feeder has lost its luster, this is not the case. Continue to fill your feeder year-round, and you’ll discover a brand new variety of species who’ll enjoy your five-star feeder just like before.

7.- Landscape your yard using plants that attract birds and produce food and flowers birds can use.

PHOTO: Garden with Flowers or just a flower

Costs and labor can add up when deciding to take on the mission of backyard bird feeding.

What once seemed like an adventure can easily seem like a chore, and you’ll be sure the feathered crowd will quickly notice this change in attitude. To help avoid this slump, try making good use of the natural resources and feed in your yard area.

To take the weight off your shoulders, try planting fruit trees or even nectar-producing plants. Not only will they brighten up your yard foliage, but they’ll also bring with them a variety of bugs, all perfect treats for your backyard birds.

See our list of articles about Landscaping for Birds Using Native Plants.

8.- Protect the feeders from being damaged by mammals.

Watching a flurry of wings and colors gather around our feeders is always an enjoyable event, but we are not the only individuals scouting out the scene.

Unfortunately, creatures including squirrels, deer, and even some bears will find time in their day to investigate the cause of the ruckus.

These animals can pose many risks to our backyard fun, ranging from stealing food to even damaging your feeder. Depending on your area, it is important to protect your feeder and patrons from unwanted guests’ dangers.

cat and bird feeder
Cat eying birds. Photo: Hehaden/Flickr/CC by 2.0

9.- Keep cats away from the feeders.

People who feed birds know that they will return if they find it safe to return once the birds find your feeder.

Whether they are well fed or not, cats are naturally drawn to small animals such as mice, lizards, and birds.

Whether the feline friend is yours or one roaming in your yard from your neighbors, the birds will be frightened to descend to feeders where a cat is frequently seen.

10.- Maintain feeders clean and in perfect working orders.

Just like us, our backyard birds enjoy living and eating in a clean and organized environment.
Feeders that appear regularly polished and maintained have high prospects of attracting more birds than you’ll know what to do with.

Be sure to keep an out for wetter months when seeds can quickly become spoiled or clogged.

Our backyard birds want the best for their families, just as much as we do, and will go out of their way to avoid feeders that may pose any health risk.

Maintaining a clean feeder attracts multiple bird species, but it will also help extend the feeder’s life.

Related: How To Properly Clean Up Your Bird Feeder

11.- Keep the birdseed fresh with its proper nutritious value.

Perhaps one of the easiest methods to attract more backyard birds is: to keep a watchful eye on your seed storage.

Seed quality can last for many years, but proper storage can play a vital role in how long that time is.

Seeds that become wet will mold and ward off interested birds, whereas seeds that become too dry will also attract fewer birds. This is because as seeds sit out in the sun, their nutrients slowly begin to dissipate.

Be sure to store your seeds in a room-temperature environment within a sealed container. Doing this prevents the risk of losing valuable bird meals to the elements or other predators.

Related:  The 14 Most Popular Foods for Backyard Birds (with Pictures and Facts)

bird feeeders
photo: Tim Green/Flickr/CC by 2.0

12.- Make sure conditions around the feeders are still suitable.

Bird feeders are recommended to be placed about 16 feet away from trees and bushes. Over time branches and bushes grow and create conditions for predators hiding in them or make easy access to the feeders by squirrels, mice, and other creatures.

Also, grass and shrubs below the feeders should be kept low to avoid cats and other predators hide near the feeder.

If things have changed over time, trim the bushes and branches, and keep the grass and shrubs low. Alternatively, move the feeders to a more suitable spot in your yard.

Final Remarks:

Consistency is the key to attracting and maintaining a vibrant bird community in your backyard.

By following these 13 tips—keeping feeders restocked, using high-quality birdseed, providing a variety of feeders, and more—you can ensure that your yard remains a favorite spot for a wide range of bird species.

Remember to create a safe and welcoming environment with clean water sources and predator protection. With regular attention and care, your backyard can become a bustling haven for birds, offering you endless joy and birdwatching opportunities. Keep up the effort, and your feathered friends will keep coming back!


Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Feederwatch Project