How Long Before Birds Come To A New Feeder

How Long Before Birds Come To A New Feeder

If you feed the birds on a regular basis and you introduce a new feeder, the birds might start using it within a couple of days. But it can take anywhere between a couple of days to a couple of weeks, or even up to a month if the birds are really cautious. We have even heard of one feeder that took 2 months before the birds started to use it, and that was in a bird-busy garden with plenty of established feeders already in place. You just need to be patient and don’t forget to replace any uneaten food daily to save it from spoiling and causing any bird that does venture onto it getting ill.

How Long Before Birds Find A New Feeder?

This is one of those questions that we get asked at least once a month here at binocular base and the answer is, the birds probably found the new feeder within the first 30 minutes of it being put up. That doesn’t mean they’ll be using it anytime soon though. You have to remember, to survive in the wild, birds have to be suspicious of everything.

They have to play things cautiously or they won’t be around for too long. It’s a sad fact of life that birds get trapped and killed on a day to day basis. If they didn’t, other wildlife wouldn’t survive. You’ve heard the expression “it’s a dog eat dog world” that’s correct for all manner of wildlife. It’s survival of the fittest and the careful too.

You know that you would never harm a bird, and you’re putting up extra feeders to help to keep them fed and healthy. But they need to be cautious because not everyone is as kind and caring as you are. You need to be patient, just like you were when you first started feeding the birds, they never came and fed from your feeders the first day, or even the first week. It took time for them to get used to your feeders and learn that you could be trusted.

What If The Birds Still Don’t Use The New Feeder After 2 Months?

If after 2 months you still haven’t had any birds come anywhere near your new feeder, it’s time to look at why they’re not using it. There are a few reasons why birds won’t touch a particular feeder and it’s time to start using some detective work. Ask yourself why they are not using the new feeder?

There are a few reasons why birds don’t use a new bird feeder they include:

  • Using The Same Type Of Feeder
    Just like us, birds need variety, they get bored eating the same food day after day.
  • Using The Wrong Food
    It’s no good putting out parrot seeds if there are no parrots in your area, check with your local pet store which food is most suitable.
  • Not Topping Up Feeders Regularly
    Birds have to eat up to half of their body weight daily, more during breeding season. It takes energy to fly to feeding sites, energy they often can’t afford to waste, if there is not a regular source of food, they will go elsewhere and not return.
  • Not Using Natural Food Stuffs
    At certain times of the year, birds can get pretty much all the food they need from their natural environment. By adding some livefood to your feeders, you will keep them coming during these periods.
  • Not Considering The Birds Safety
    Lots of wild birds get killed at garden feeding sites, predators sit in wait and attack while the birds are feeding. Make sure your feeders are situated in safe positions. Away from any potential ambush sites.
  • Not Keeping Feeders Clean
    Bird feeders need to be regularly cleaned to prevent birds contracting and spreading infectious diseases.
  • Storing Birds Food Incorrectly

If bird food is not stored correctly it can go bad, and start to smell. Rancid food will definitely not attract any birds to your feeders.

How To Get Birds To Use Your New Bird Feeder

If you already feed the birds regularly, and they return every day, try adding the new feeder in a place as close to your existing feeders as possible. This will get them used to it faster, and if there are too many birds vying for the existing feeders you might get lucky and get your new feeder used straight away.

Some birds however, like quiet spots and won’t feed in busy areas, so if you have the patience, it’s worth your while to site your new feeder away from the area that birds congregate, but make sure it’s a SAFE space away from any potential ambush sites.

New feeders should not be filled right up, limit the amount of food you put into a new feeder in case it’s not a hit from day one, and you need to replace it.

To be sure the new feeder is noticed by the birds, try spreading a few seeds or whatever is in the feeder, on top. It might be enough to get them used to the feeder and then you’ll probably have trouble keeping up with the demand.

We have heard of people spreading peanut butter on top of peanut feeders to attract the birds to the new feeder. Be inventive and patient, in time you will succeed in getting your new feeder used.

What Type Of Feeder Are You Using?

With such a large variety of bird feeders on the market you are literally spoilt for choice.  There are tray feeders, suet feeders, tube feeders, hopper feeders, bird tables and not forgetting the specialty feeders aimed at particular types of birds. Of course you can also just throw some bird feed on the ground, but this can cause problems especially if the birds don’t eat it all. You could create a rodent problem and no-one wants that!

So let’s look at some of the ways to feed birds in your garden starting with:

  • Using A Bird Table
    There are a number of garden birds that won’t use feeders, preferring to feed from a table, they include blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks, robins and collared doves.
  • Throwing Feed On The Ground
    The same birds that feed on a bird table will also feed straight from the ground, and you can add pigeons, wood pigeons, chaffinches, house sparrows, and wrens to the above list.

    Be sure to remove any uneaten food before evening to deter rodents from getting the scent and starting to hang out in your garden. Some people use a piece of board, placed on the floor and then removed in the evening and replaced the following morning.
  • Using Hanging Feeders
    There are a variety of hanging feeders available, some are shaped specifically for a particular type of food. There are suet feeders shaped to accommodate the suet blocks available from pet food suppliers, others shaped to take fat balls, seed holders and so on. Be sure to clean your feeders regularly and replace any uneaten food on a regular basis too. Check all peanut feeders regularly as they can go mouldy quickly especially in damp conditions. 

Some of the birds that frequent hanging feeders include; chaffinches, sparrows, siskins, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, goldfinches and greenfinches. Fat balls will also attract blackbirds, starlings and black caps.

How To Guarantee To Attract More Birds To Your Garden

Do you want to attract lots of birds to your garden? The easiest way to attract birds to your garden is to offer them something they need, that is in short supply elsewhere. In our experience here in the United Kingdom, the one thing that is always in short supply Summer or Winter, is fresh water.

There are many thousands of people in Great Britain that feed the birds on a regular basis. That’s great, but birds need fresh water daily. They need it to drink, bathe and cool off during hot periods. We literally doubled the number of birds visiting our garden once we installed a bird bath.

The beauty of a bird bath is anything will do (within reason) all it has to be is a shallow bowl that will hold around 4 inches (10cm) of water, sited flat and securely on the ground, or table in a position free from obstructions so the birds can keep an eye on predators. Plus you must clean it out regularly and keep it topped up with fresh water. In Winter, pour some warm water in to prevent freezing or to remove ice.

Never Use De-Icer Or Salt To Defrost A Bird Bath

Chemicals are poisonous to birds, and they cannot process salt, so effectively salt is poisonous to birds too.

Why Is A Bird Bath So Attractive To Birds?

Bird Bath

Wild birds rely on streams, pools, and puddles to meet their daily water requirements for drinking and bathing and they will even swoop into slow flowing rivers during extremely hot weather to cool off. But in really hot Summers puddles and pools dry up, and streams can reduce in size so much that birds no longer feel safe using them.

In Winter all of their natural water supplies freeze over, leaving birds with nowhere to do their necessary daily ablutions. If you do introduce a bird bath you have to be consistent, refill and wash out daily, sometimes twice a day in extremely hot conditions and defrost and refill in Winter.

Many of our garden birds here in the UK will use a bird bath on a regular basis, they include; sparrows, pigeons, collared doves, starlings, thrushes and blackbirds. If you do attract starlings you will need to constantly refill the bird bath, starlings know how to bathe, they get right in the water and throw it all over their heads and bodies.

Pigeons are interesting to watch while they are drinking, they use their beaks like a straw to suck water into their mouths, they then throw their heads back to swallow. Many birds like to posture when using a bird bath to prevent others from entering. It can be quite entertaining watching 2 starlings, or 2 pigeons posturing and a little sparrow will dip in between them and have a drink.

Why Do Birds Not Use Any Of Your Feeders?

If you have a number of feeders and you notice a drop off in the number of birds that use your feeders or the feeders remain full of food for long periods there could be a number of reasons for this. Some things are beyond our control but there are some things we can do to attract birds back to our gardens. Reasons the birds have stopped visiting our feeders include:

  • Noisy Children
    Kids are noisy, that’s a fact of life, if they stop being noisy they are either ill or up to something they shouldn’t be. The trouble is, the birds like it peaceful, they feel safer in an empty, quiet garden. Maybe you could involve the children into helping you fill the feeders or get them watching the birds from indoors. Anything to make them aware that the birds need to feed and are less likely to when the kids are being kids in the garden, around the feeders.
  • Pets
    The birds are less likely to visit your feeders if there are pets in the garden, even a dog dozing in the afternoon sun is enough to put the birds off of visiting. If possible feed the birds at a regular time and keep your dog indoors for a short while, just long enough to let the birds come and get a feed.

    Cats are a problem, especially if they’re not your cats, all you can do is make your garden as uninviting to cats as possible. There are many cat deterrents available at fairly reasonable amounts of money. There are spikes for fences, cat deterrent sprays, sonic cat repellers, even just placing old plastic bottles filled with water is supposed to keep cats away. If it is your cat, consider putting a bell on its collar or there are now stickers with U/V flashes that are only visible to birds that warn them to keep away.

    Even setting up rabbit cages and pens near to where birds feed, can be enough to put the birds off landing on their feeders. Try to set up any pens or cages away from where bird feeders are situated.
  • Predators
    For obvious reasons, birds won’t visit your garden if there are predators around. Neighbouring cats can be a serious problem, you have no control over other peoples pets, and sometimes people don’t react too well to suggestions of making their pets bird friendly. If that is the case, try placing feeders higher up and bird tables in more open areas so birds can at least see the cats coming.
  • Natural Foods In A Plentiful Supply
    There are certain times of the year when there is a plentiful supply of insects, and seeds or whatever the bird’s natural food stuff is. There is nothing you can do about this, only wait until they run out and come back looking for your feeders again.

    Having a bird bath at least keeps the birds visiting your garden and if you put just a small amount of food out, you can monitor how hungry they are, and increase the amounts as necessary.
  • Better Food On Offer Elsewhere
    There are more people than ever feeding the birds nowadays. So sometimes it’s not that you are doing things wrong, it’s just they have been filling up somewhere else. Maybe they’re offering a better quality of bird seed, or they soak their mealworms better than you. Who knows? But that could explain the lack of birds eating from your garden.

How To Attract Birds To Your Garden Using Plants

If you are considering replanting your garden, and you enjoy watching the birds that visit your garden, you can attract more birds just by growing the right plants. Here are a few plants that garden birds are attracted to. If you can plant some of these around your garden you will not only attract more birds, but your garden will look more attractive too.


Holly is a great plant for the birds, the berries will attract redwings, fieldfares, song thrushes and blackbirds and the flowers attract hoverflies that will help to pollinate many of your plants.


In Autumn the flowers from ivy attract insects that in turn attract wrens and robins. Once the berries form in late Autumn early Winter they will attract finches, jays, thrushes, waxwings, starlings and blackbirds. Caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly eat the leaves and the strong stalks, branches and trunks provide roosting shelter and nesting for many birds.


Honeysuckle is ideal to fit in small spaces as it’s a climbing plant. During the Summer the flowers will attract many insects which provide food for various birds. In Autumn the berries attract bullfinches, thrushes and warblers.


Hawthorn leaves are eaten by caterpillars of various moths which become the food of lots of baby birds in springtime. While the bright red haws are favoured by chaffinches, fieldfares, starlings, greenfinches, redwings and blackbirds.


The seedheads of teasel, are favoured by buntings, goldfinches and sparrows and make a nice stately display from Autumn until late december.


There are many varieties of rowan, with berries that vary in colour from bright orange to red. They attract Starlings and blackbirds. Some form berries in July with others starting to form their berries in November.


Long after the flowers have faded the seed  head of the sunflower will become a feast for nuthatches, tits and other seed loving birds.


This bush will be covered in small red berries from Autumn, and the berries are eaten early in the season. The birds attracted to cotoneaster berries include thrushes, waxwings and blackbirds.

Shrub Roses

Grow some of the larger hip varieties like rosa rugosa the bright red hips are popular with mistle thrushes, fieldfares and blackbirds. Varieties like the dog rose that have smaller hips are eaten by a wide range of birds.

Guelder Rose 

This shrub is actually not a rose but a member of the viburnum family and is laden with clusters of berries that are very popular with bullfinches and mistle thrushes.

That’s 10 of the best plants to grow to attract a wide range of birds to your garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get birds to come to my feeder?

To get birds to come to your feeder you should provide the food that they like. If it is a new feeder, it can take days or even weeks before the birds use it. Just be patient and check it regularly to be sure any food in there doesn’t go mouldy.

Is it OK to throw birdseed on the ground?

It is OK to throw bird seed on the ground but any left overnight could attract rodents to your garden.

How do I attract birds to my new bird bath?

To attract birds to your new bird bath be sure it is in a spot where they can see it easily, far enough away from anywhere that a predator might hide. Then just be patient, birds are cautious creatures because that’s how they stay alive. But they will come eventually.

Does feeding the birds attract rats?

Any food left on the floor after the birds have gone for the night can attract members of the rodent family. They are scavengers by nature, so they will eat any food they find on the floor.