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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