Do you love feeding birds but have no garden? For those of us fortunate to have a private garden there are many options available; feeding poles, hanging feeders, bird baths. What about those who live in an apartment block? How on earth do you feed birds from an apartment balcony?
For people living in an apartment or a high rise, attracting birds to an apartment balcony is still possible. Bird feeders for apartment balconies are a ‘thing’ and feeders that attach to a balcony rail can be easily made or bought. Feeders that attach with suction cups to windows are also very successful. Balcony gardens are a good way of attracting birds too but there are some things to be aware of if you are thinking of using bird feeders from a high rise apartment. Here is what you need to know.
Feeding Birds From An Apartment Balcony
If you are thinking about feeding birds from your apartment, you should first understand why birds go where they do. What I mean is – what would attract them to your apartment over the one above? Why do birds visit my back garden more than my neighbours?
In the simplest of terms, birds will be attracted to various things for a number of reasons. They like places where they feel safe and where they know there is food. It is likely that birds are attracted first to the environment or objects within it before finding the food.
Here are five basic tips to help you attract birds to your balcony.
- Add plants or flowers – birds like certain types of plants, either for their seed or because their favourite food lives on them in the form of grubs and bugs. Sunflowers are a popular choice and they are super easy to grow.
- Shrubs & climbers – if possible and appropriate, use some established potted shrubs or climbing plants like honeysuckle. Birds love to have a place to hide while they wait to feed. They also need a safe place to dart to while they eat.
- Use a bird bath or water feature – birds are attracted to water, especially moving water. They need to drink and they need to bathe regularly.
- Add colour – birds can be attracted to specific colours. One reason is because they associate the colour with food, e.g. bright yellow sunflowers contain sunflower seeds; a big favourite with garden birds. Coloured ribbon or ornaments can help.
- Experiment with food types – a good quality seed mix is going to be a good start. I find that sunflower hearts are a firm favourite. Test some out, see which birds visit and go from there. If you stick with the same food you could be limiting which birds return after first inspection.
For more information on attracting birds with colour, see this post – Are Birds Attracted To Certain Colours?
The Best Bird Feeder For Apartment Balcony
So far I have found there are three main types of bird feeder that are good for apartment balconies. Each one has pros and cons but you will probably decide quite quickly which one is best for you, depending on your balcony size, layout and overall surroundings.
Before I go on, if squirrels present themselves as a problem around your balcony try some of the tips in this article – Using Cayenne Pepper In Bird Seed. It gives you some effective ways in which you can deter squirrels (and rats) from feeding on your bird food.
Balcony Rail Feeders
This type of feeder is suited to a balcony with a horizontal rail. Clearly most balconies will have such a rail, otherwise it would not be safe. As you can see from the image, a clamp mechanism under the feeder secures tightly against the balcony rail, holding the feeder in place. See them on Amazon’s website for an idea of price.
A good feeder like this will also come with a security cable that prevents the feeder from falling to the ground below, if the clamp fails. I would say this is a must if you are one storey or more above the ground. They say a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building can kill a pedestrian below. This has been proven to be a myth but imagine a wooden bird feeder falling from the 5th floor – it’s going to do some damage.
Bird feeders can also hang from a balcony railing, instead of clamping on. I would not recommend an unsecured hanging feeder for anything above the second floor, though. High winds can easily unbalance a feeder sending it crashing to the ground below.
Window Feeders With Suction Cups
One of my next purchases is going to be one of these. I want to get one for my daughter’s bedroom window so she can see birds close up and enjoy them coming to visit. Although good for windows at any level, these feeders are also a really good idea for an apartment.
They work by simply sticking to a window with suction cups. They allow you to watch the birds feeding from quite a close distance without the need for a spotting scope or binoculars. Birds tend to get used to the activity on the other side of a window, if they can see past the reflection. As long as there are no sudden movements close to the window the birds will feed quite happily.
It also makes it easier to set up a camera to record the activity without using any optical gain that might degrade photos. The Garden Mile Unique Clear Hanging Perspex Squirrel proof Window Bird Feeder has a lot of good reviews on Amazon.
For reasons I will explain in a second you might prefer to use a tray feeder, if your balcony allows. Unlike the other two types of feeder, a tray feeder like this one may give you peace of mind, knowing it is never likely to fall and damage anything or injure someone.
It is also easier to maintain and to remove from the balcony for cleaning and refreshing. See the latest prices over at Amazon.
Pros and Cons of Bird Feeders On High Rise Apartments
So, how do you attract birds to a high balcony? Whichever method that suits you and your home. As I said before, there are pros and cons to using each of the three types of bird feeder above. Consider the following points when attracting birds to your apartment balcony.
Balcony Rail Feeder
- versatile, in that anywhere there is a horizontal rail or cross-member you can secure a clamp
- any feeder can be adapted to simply hang from a balcony railing
- limits birds to smaller, more welcome breeds who can access the feeder more easily
- high winds at higher altitudes could dislodge the feeder, whether clamped or hung
- droppings and debris from the feeder, such as husk and filler, will fall to the next surface below. Neighbours below you will not thank you for the mess
Window Feeder (suction cup)
- close up view of birds
- better photo opportunities without needing optical gain devices
- many variations available
- helps prevent birds flying into windows
- suckers could fail
- limited to easy reach distance from opening, if you have a French style balcony
- falling debris and mess
- no falling debris
- easy to remove and maintain
- any type of tray can be used, not necessarily an expensive, purpose made product
- view of birds is limited
- higher chance of attracting Pigeons, Gulls and other birds considered to be pests
- more mess and wastage
Using A Balcony Garden To Attract Birds
I had not heard of a balcony garden until recently. It turns out they are a great way of attracting wildlife to a sparse and boring balcony. I became fascinated by this concept and wanted to know how a balcony garden can attract birds. So, I did some digging (pun intended!) and this is what I found out.
Attracting Birds With A Balcony Garden
Attracting birds to an apartment balcony is surprisingly easy with a balcony garden. In the late spring and summer a selection of plants and a splash of colour could be a better option than a seed feeder. I have found that birds in my garden tend to visit my feeders less, opting for picking around in the trees and plants. At this time of year they are looking for small caterpillars and grubs to feed their newly hatched young. Find out more about what to feed birds throughout the seasons.
A clever and very natural way of attracting birds to an apartment balcony is to use plants that birds like. It sounds obvious but when you have a garden or natural habitat literally on your doorstep it is often taken for granted. So, which plants are best for attracting birds to a balcony?
The main consideration is going to be space and how the plants are going to be planted. I suggest potted plants are best; there are many types of plant that are happiest in pots and they can be moved around more easily. I do not profess to be an expert when it comes to plants. In fact I know very little but here is what I have recently learnt during my ongoing quest to learn about wild birds.
Attracting Insects Will Attract Birds
As I explained earlier, particularly toward late spring into the summer months, common garden birds like blue tits are actively looking for smaller grub-like insects. This is what they need to feed their young. My other post – Should You Feed Garden Birds All Year Round?,gives more information on what to feed garden birds depending on the season.
Avoid sterile plants and go for varieties that pollinating insects will be attracted to. Lavender is the first one that springs to mind – this year we bought a couple of potted lavender from the garden centre and it took me 5 minutes to pick the pots up because of the number of bees around them.
Other plants like catmint or anything with a daisy-like flower will attract insects. Attracting insects will, in turn, attract birds.
A popular flower to grow in the garden or in pots on a balcony is the sunflower. Not only do they look awesome, they contain loads of seeds that birds love. Birds that are attracted to sunflowers include sparrows, finches, tits and siskins. They are easy to grow and look after; I even found that the black sunflower seeds from my bird seed mix grew very well and very quickly when I planted some in a pot.
Berries are a good source of food for wild birds but growing plants that bear berries may result in more mess on a balcony. A nice one to grow is honeysuckle, the berries of which attract thrushes and warblers. You might find, though, that these birds won’t be looking at higher places to get their food.
Balcony Bird Feeders Attract Pests
Depending on how high your apartment is, you may encounter rodents and other pests. Larger birds like Pigeons and Crows that can be found at higher altitudes are likely to find your feeders and make a nuisance of themselves. If you don’t mind this then you will be in good company but there are others.
Beware The Pigeons!
Many people don’t mind Pigeons. Personally I do not like them and I do not like the mess they leave. Honestly, I went to check my feeders today and nearly stepped in something the size of what a small dog would leave behind! Not only will they potentially become a nuisance to you but your neighbours are likely to object, especially if they are not bird feeding fans.
In many places there are laws against feeding Pigeons. This is because of the mess they create and the damage they cause to buildings and statues. There are also health implications here too if humans come into contact with their droppings.
Squirrels Are Expert Climbers
If your apartment is accessible by squirrels they too will find the feeders. Known for their cunning and persistence, squirrels will stop at nothing to get to a free meal. One person I was talking to on a birding forum soon had squirrels nesting in their roof space after introducing a feeder on their balcony. This can be noisy and unhelpful, not to mention dangerous if they begin chewing through electric cables. My other post – Using Cayenne Pepper In Bird Seed, gives tips on how to deter squirrels from stealing your bird food.
Keeping A Balcony Clean
If you are feeding birds from a balcony there will be mess. It may be discarded seed or husk, it may be droppings. Either way, you are going to want to keep your balcony clean otherwise it will become very dirty and unhealthy very quickly.
5 Tips For Keeping Your Balcony Clean When Using Bird Feeders.
- Use a no-mess bird seed mix to ensure minimum wastage. This will leave you with only the droppings to clean away.
- Instead of using a conventional feeder, place a tray or bowl on a stool. Put the stool on a square of carpet or vinyl to prevent mess dropping to the balcony below. It is easier to clean too.
- Use a stiff brush to dislodge any hard debris before disposing of it. Be careful not to let anything fall to your neighbour below.
- Use a disinfectant solution to wet clean the balcony where birds have been feeding and messing. This will kill the majority of harmful germs and bacteria that birds leave behind.
- Try to avoid cleaning bird feeders in indoors. It may be difficult if space is limited, however, bird feeders can be riddled with disease and nastiness that us humans shouldn’t be in contact with. If you have to use the kitchen, thoroughly clean the area afterwards.