Why do birds reject me?
October 27, 2022 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I made a little birdfeeder, filled it with sunflower seeds, and put it in my fence. Three weeks later the seeds are untouched. Both the birds and squirrels are ignoring it. So, what did I do wrong?
posted by Marky to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like it's accessible from the street, is somebody else re-filling it?
posted by bondcliff at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2022

No nearby cover (bushes/trees) might be part of the reason, especially if you have raptors or outdoor cats in the area.

Cute feeder!
posted by humbug at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2022 [15 favorites]

Could someone else nearby be feeding a food birds like more, like suet/tallow/lard?
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 11:11 AM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It can take birds a while to discover a feeder. But also it doesn't look like there's anything else to bring birds to that spot and no cover nearby to make them feel comfortable about visiting it. From a bird's point of view, the best spot for a feeder is among trees and shrubs. Ground feeding birds might be more willing to visit that location, but to attract them you would need to put the food on the ground. And probably use something other than sunflower seeds.
posted by Redstart at 11:12 AM on October 27, 2022 [6 favorites]

Toss seeds around the area and on the table top of the feeder to increase chances that animals will stumble upon the seeds while browsing, and then search the area to find the source.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

From your question history, it looks like you're somewhere in New York, where for the last three weeks it's been autumn. Autumn is generally regarded as a bad time to start a bird feeding operation. The migratory birds are leaving, and the ones that stay already have their go-to feeding spots. You'll probably get more customers in the spring. I have actually seen counterintuitive advice to put feeders out in the fall for this reason, because everyone else puts theirs out in the spring and you will beat the rush. You know what they say about the early bird...

I've never actually tested this, but most advice says to place your feeder near a birdbath or other water source, so the birds have something to wash their meals down with. After all, you wouldn't go to a restaurant that didn't serve drinks, would you?

I don't know why the squirrels aren't touching it, but be thankful. Squirrels are awful. Hate those guys. People go to great lengths to keep squirrels away, and you're getting it for free.

Mostly, though, it's a question of time. Three weeks isn't much in birdfeeding time. Just gotta be patient.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2022 [12 favorites]

Having put up multiple feeders: around our house the ones further from street traffic and closer to cover (bushes) get dramatically more traffic, even if they're only 30 feet apart from each other.
posted by Ausamor at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would put it close to some trees. That looks like the perfect place for a hawk to swoop down and grab a bird or squirrel.

Imagine a bird swooping in -- place it where it seems difficult for a bird to do that.
posted by beccaj at 12:13 PM on October 27, 2022

Best answer: Nthing the thought that the position looks too exposed. Also, higher up is generally better than lower down for many birds.

Those look like whole sunflower seeds. They're attractive to some birds, but many will prefer seeds without shells, or suet pellets, dried mealworms, or smaller seeds. It's a good idea to combine various foods to cater for the various types of birds around.
posted by pipeski at 12:19 PM on October 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yes, make sure you have black oil sunflower seeds, with little to no filler, those puppies will be gone in an hour.
posted by Melismata at 12:21 PM on October 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

I put out three millet wands in so cal. Three years later they were still untouched. The local birds eat bugs. They were in safe places too.
posted by Oyéah at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2022

Also, not to be the party pooper (here I am being the party pooper!), but I think we're supposed to put away all of our bird feeders because of avian flu. Maybe its for the best they're ignoring your seeds? Then I thoroughly read my link, and it was like, maybe not a problem if you don't keep chickens?
posted by atomicstone at 1:48 PM on October 27, 2022

It can take about a month for birds to see and trust a feeder; that may be all that's happening.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2022

Best answer: nthing that it might just take some time. But another thing is, you might want to consider building a cover for that feeder. When it rains or snows, those seeds will get wet and get moldy, not good. Build a kind of roof canopy over it.
posted by beagle at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

There is currently very low risk of an outbreak among wild songbirds, and no official recommendation to take down feeders unless you also keep domestic poultry, according to the National Wildlife Disease Program. We do always recommend that you clean bird feeders and birdbaths regularly as a way to keep many kinds of diseases at bay.

Songbirds are much less likely than waterfowl to contract avian influenza and less likely to shed large amounts of virus, meaning they do not transmit the disease easily. (See Shriner and Root 2020 for a detailed review in the journal Viruses.)

(from atomicstone's link).
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

+1 for putting it by trees, adding a rain cover, and sprinkling some of the seeds around the edges to be more visible.
posted by coffeecat at 3:15 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

All of the above, especially getting hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds. Only big birds like the whole ones with shells and even then they make a mess. And put it somewhere a little more sheltered, birds like to flit in and out from cover when they feel it's safe.

I have a feeder I attach to my window with a suction cup, there's tons on Amazon, happy to recommend one but just get a roof!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:56 PM on October 27, 2022

In addition to what others have already said, I'd also guess that it's the unconventional look of your feeder. Its originality makes it cute, but if your local birds have learned that food comes from feeders, they may generalize that to other similar-looking feeders before they do to yours. If so, I'd guess they'll figure it out eventually.
posted by daisyace at 5:28 PM on October 28, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. I dumped out the seeds today, they had all sprouted and stuck together, and a couple of squirrels went crazy for them. Unfortunately, my dogs could see them from the window, so they went nuts as well.

I'll try refilling with smaller bird feed. And try to 3d print a scale umbrella as a cover.
posted by Marky at 11:05 PM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

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