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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  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018
  • Can juniper titmice be found in eastern US? In Sourh Carolina? I swear we saw one!
    by Marnie Lynn Browder, Sun, 10 Jun 2018