Sep 27, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2017

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Bird Feeders?

Find a balance in your feeding operation. Deploy a number of feeders that you won't mind cleaning at least monthly.
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This is a question that birdfeeding enthusiasts have asked themselves and others over the decades. Since backyard bird-feeding exploded as an activity in the early 1980s with the advent of commercially produced feeders and commercially packaged bird seed (along with the development of black-oil sunflower seed as a bird-feeding staple) we've all expanded our backyard offerings to include more varieties of seed/food and feeders. But is there such a thing as too many feeders? I think the answer is yes. Let me explain.

Variety is not only the spice of life, it's also the spice of bird feeding. If you want to attract the maximum number of birds and the widest possible guild of species to your backyard, you have to add new and different things to attract them. Specialty feeders such as suet, peanut, fruit, nectar, and mixed-seed feeders are designed to appeal to certain species while often excluding others. The only "fly in the ointment" here is when the maintenance of your feeder menagerie becomes too much for you to handle effectively.

This can result in feeders that are unhealthy for the birds you love. Even well-maintained feeding stations can become disease vectors in wet, humid weather because of the concentrations of birds, food, and the waste that comes out of birds that eat the food. A feeder covered in bird droppings is both unsightly and unhealthy. But let's not dwell on that topic or image too long.

My advice to you is this: Find a balance in your feeding operation. Deploy a number of feeders that you won't mind cleaning at least monthly (and more often in wet, bad weather and extra poopy conditions). Is that five feeders? Three? Ten? It's up to you. But please bear in mind that the glamorous part of bird feeding is the actual feeding. And yet it's no good for the birds without the unglamorous part: the cleaning and disinfection of your feeders so the birds (and you) can lead healthy, happy lives.

I'll climb down off the editorial soapbox now. Happy bird feeding!



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest by day. He's also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, and blogger.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    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