Why Won’t Birds Come To My Feeder? 6 Reasons Why

When we had some work done in our garden I took down the bird feeders temporarily. When I put them back up in time for autumn and winter, the birds did not return. In just over a week, no birds came. What had gone wrong and why would no birds come to my feeder?

Possible reasons for birds not returning to bird feeders, or returning to previous feeders are:

  • sometimes it just takes time and patience.
  • the feeder must be in a suitable location (quiet & safe with natural cover nearby)
  • poor quality seed or food or birds can find better, natural food sources instead.
  • family pets or predators are near.
  • your neighbour is offering a better menu!

I have an idea as to why my feeders weren’t getting any attention. Here’s what I did to fix it.

Why Have Birds Stopped Coming To My Feeder?

I mentioned at the beginning we had some work done in our garden. One big thing that happened was the removal of a medium sized blossom tree from the middle of the front garden. As you will read in my other post about Choosing The Best Place For A Bird Feeder, one very important thing to include is nearby natural cover for the birds. What this means is a tree, large bushes or similar. These will provide a place for birds to hide if they feel unsafe.

Clearly I now have no tree in the garden and my feeders are on a tall pole, in an open, exposed area. This is not ideal and I accept this may lower my chances of seeing my family of Gold Finches return any time soon. Fortunately, my neighbours all have trees or large shrubs that are not too far away and I am hoping these will be enough. I will update again with the results.

UPDATE: Since writing this post I decided to move my feeders to a different location. The result was worth it. Find out more here. I am beyond happy!

Six Reasons Why There Are No Birds At Your Feeder

If you have had success with birds coming to your feeders before but, for some reason they have stopped. There are some common reasons why this may have happened. Some things we just cannot change but others, we may be able to influence.

1. Birds Prefer Natural Food Sources

It is a simple fact that while we provide wild birds with all kinds of tasty treats we think they like, many will actually prefer naturally occurring foods in their environment. This is nature’s way and something that has been happening for millions of years. It could just be that due to a mild winter and the abundance of natural food elsewhere, your feeders will have to wait until the birds really need them. It’s not your fault.

2. Predators

Birds will not want to share space with another animal that is likely to harm them. If you live in a community where cats are almost always present, it may not be a great place for bird feeders. It could be that a new cat has arrived in the area and frequents your garden.

If your home allows, consider relocating feeders to an enclosed back garden instead of an open front garden. We are lucky that the neighbourhood cats don’t usually venture into our back garden so we get quite a few birds there. My security camera does show cat activity at the front though.

3. Family Pets

This can link in with predators above; a family dog dozing in the sun or even a pet rabbit near to the feeder could just be enough to make birds feel uneasy around your feeder. We all love our pets and enjoy watching them play just as much as we do the birds on our feeders.

However, you may get more bird activity when the pet is indoors or in a different area to the feeder. If you have acquired a new pet it could be a reason birds have left.

4. Children & Noise

Households with children will naturally be louder and a hive of activity. This is the kind of thing birds do not like. They like quiet and safety when they feed. If you have added any play equipment in the area where feeders are located, the new noise and activity may be scaring the birds away.

Are there any new noises coming from a neighbour’s garden that could be the cause? New neighbours with loud children, maybe?

5. Other Tempting Feeders

When I walk around the cul-de-sac where I live I can see at least four other households with bird feeders. Some are simple and some are more elaborate. The thing is, those feeders might hold better seed than my feeders. Maybe my neighbours are using a different type of bird food all together.

At the risk of starting a neighbourhood bird feeding war, I need to find out what they are using to feed the birds. My feeders may be devoid of birds because my enemies (I mean neighbours) have the upper hand.

How Long Before Birds Come To A New Feeder?

Another reason why birds have stopped coming to your feeder is because you have added a new one to your collection. Sometimes the mere addition of a new feeder can show just how fickle birds can be.

I read in a birding forum recently that someone put up a new bird table in their garden but even after a number of weeks the birds were happily using the other feeders nearby in the same garden but ignoring the new table feeder.

Be Patient

The most important thing about all of this is to be patient and to not get discouraged. Birds will often go to a new bird feeder within a day or two but it is most common for birds to take anywhere up to several weeks before they start to feed at a new place.

The general rule is anything from two to four weeks. This allows them find the feeder and to observe it for a while to suss out what food is in it and whether it is a safe place to feed.

Birds can be put off or just uncomfortable with something of a different size and shape to those they are already used to. Again, don’t be discouraged and be patient as they will come, it just takes time.

How Do Birds Find Bird Feeders

Birds generally have a poor sense of smell, if any sense of smell at all. It is because of this that birds use sight and sound to make sense of the world around them. Smaller wild garden birds will often garden hop around the neighbourhood to find their food. In doing this they are likely to come across a new feeder on their routine patrols.

Scatter Some Seed

Many feeders will be spotted from the air while a bird is in flight. A feeder is more likely to be seen if it is in the open, rather than shaded by a tree or in a bush. Sometimes scattering some seed or other food around the area of the feeder can give birds a visual clue there is food there. Bear in mind other pests, though, like rats and squirrels.

Birds are clever creatures and it is believed they can recognise the shape and appearance of a feeder. They are likely to associate certain shapes and forms as feeders with a good source of nutritious food.


There could be any number of reasons why birds have stopped coming to your feeder. Relocation, added noise, removal of safe cover are just a few. Any sudden changes to the environment around the feeder could have a negative impact.

If you haven’t made any changes to your feeder or its location, it could be that the birds have found a better source of food that they prefer. this could be either natural food, which is their preference, or a neighbour’s superior seed mix.

It is important to note that attracting birds to a new feeder can take time and patience. A new feeder may not get any action for up to four weeks, depending on location, food type and how visible it is from both the ground and the air.