Nov 14, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2017

Dear Birdsquatch: Why Are There No Birds At My Feeders?

Trying to understand why you have few—or no—birds at your feeder? There are a lot of potential explanations.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

Why are there no birds at my bird feeders?

—Jim C., Rockford, Illinois

Dear Jim,

Did you ever watch that old TV show The Rockford Files? Was that filmed in your town? I don't get to watch much TV, being a sasquatch and all. We mostly spend our days in the lonely mountain forests. But occasionally I get some "tube time" in at empty, all-night laundromats and in the window displays of small-town appliance stores. Man, I love that show! It's right up there on my list of favorite things, along with blueberry pie, the songs of Leonard Cohen, and a good shagbark hickory trunk to use as a back scratcher.

There are a lot of potential answers to your question. Is your seed fresh? If you're using last year's seed, it might be stale, or hollowed out by weevils, or just plain yucky. Trying giving your feeders a good thorough cleaning and a refill with some new seed.

Another possibility is that your birds are finding ample natural food elsewhere. If there's an abundance of nuts, berries, grapes, and other natural foods that birds like, they should return once the natural stores are depleted later in the season, or when harsh weather comes.

Finally, you may have a birdscaring interloper visiting your backyard—perhaps an accipiter (usually a Cooper's or sharpshinned hawk) or a marauding cat. Any one of these creatures hunting your backyard will drive away birds temporarily. And once the birds are gone, the predator usually leaves, too. The hawks are part of nature's natural balance and should be left alone. They catch the weak, sick, naive, or slow birds and thus make the population more fit for survival.

Cats—don't get me started on cats. There's no reason why a cat—pet or feral—should be catching birds at a backyard feeding station. Look for piles of feathers to determine if there's a backyard predator present. If your culprit is a cat, I'd suggest catching it in a humane cage trap to see if it belongs to a neighbor. If so, you've got some neighborly convincing to do. If you don't wish to trap and handle the cat, get yourself a super-soaker squirt gun and fill it with a 50/50 blend of vinegar and water. Give the cat a good soaking (it's harmless but tastes and smells bad) and Fluffy will almost certainly never darken your yard again.

I don't really have any other good answers. Maybe this is a case for Jim Rockford?

Your buddy, B.S.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018