Best Bird Feeder Placement

Where to Put Bird Feeders

Downy Woodpecker on a Suet Feeder
Placing a suet feeder among tree branches will help attract woodpeckers. Photo © Shara Miller/Flickr/Used With Permission

Proper bird feeder placement makes a startling difference for the attractiveness of a bird feeder, both for the birds eating from it and the birders watching it. By placing your feeders where they will be most convenient for you and the birds, you can make the most of every opportunity to provide good food for a wide range of birds and to see many species enjoying the meal.

Placing Bird Feeders for the Birds

The most important factors to consider when choosing the best bird feeder placement are those that affect how the birds will see and use the feeder.

If the birds do not find the feeder placement comfortable, safe or convenient, they will not use it as frequently. When placing bird feeders in your yard, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Natural Feeding: The best place to put a feeder will simulate a bird's natural feeding preferences. Suet feeders for woodpeckers, for example, will be more popular if placed near tree trunks or thick branches. Platform feeders for ground-feeding birds do best in areas where those birds will normally feed. Nectar feeders will be more popular if placed near nectar-producing flowers.
  • Activity: Feeders in quiet, less disturbed areas generally do better than feeders placed near active areas such as a play structure, garage door or patio. While birds can become accustomed to some noise and activity, many species prefer a quieter area for feeding. Avoid putting feeders near wind chimes or other artificial noisemakers, but take note that there are certain sounds that can help attract birds. Placing feeders near those natural sounds can help bring birds to them.
  • Safety: Birds will not visit a feeder in an unsafe area. Position bird feeders roughly 10-12 feet from suitable shelter such as trees, brush piles or shrubs to give birds a safe, fast retreat whenever a predator is nearby. At the same time, take suitable steps to protect backyard birds from cats to make the feeding area even safer.
  • Windows: Window collisions are often fatal to small birds. Feeders should be placed either very close to the window (less than three feet), or much further away (greater than 10 feet). From close feeders, birds cannot hit the window hard enough for injury, and distant feeders provide enough room to safely maneuver. Other ways to prevent bird window collisions can also be useful and will drastically minimize this problem.
  • Visibility: Birds need to see a feeder before they will readily visit it. Placing feeders in a sunny, open area makes them more visible to passing birds. This bird feeder placement also gives feeding birds a good field of view to stay on the lookout for predators and other threats.
  • Chemicals: If you use chemicals in one area of your yard, such as pesticides on a garden, bird feeders should be placed far away so the seed or other foods cannot become contaminated. Once you attract a lot of birds, however, you may find you need fewer chemicals altogether, since birds will readily eat insects and help keep your yard and garden naturally healthy.
  • Squirrels: Squirrels can damage feeders in many ways. Placing feeders well away from trees, sturdy shrubs, fences, roofs and other structures where squirrels can leap from will help keep the feeder free from damage. Taking other steps to squirrel-proof your feeders can help minimize this problem no matter where your feeders are located.

Placing Bird Feeders for Birders

Most birders want to enjoy the benefits of feeding birds, such as attracting more species, seeing birds up close, building a yard list and identifying new feeder visitors. By choosing your bird feeder placement to meet your needs, you will be able to enjoy each feeder just as much as the birds. To maximize that enjoyment, consider:

  • View: Place a feeder where you have a clear, unobstructed view from an easy window. Also consider the light – bright sunlight may make it easier to see birds’ colors and finer field marks for easy identification, but it could make bird photography more challenging. A shaded area may have less glare and afford better views during summer months. Also note how visibility may change in different seasons as shrubs grow, trees shed leaves or other changes occur in your landscape.
  • Refilling: Placing a feeder in an area where it will be easy to refill can help you keep the feeder in good shape to attract more birds. If you need a stepladder or special tools to refill a feeder each time, you may be less likely to keep it filled, cleaned or repaired properly.
  • Shelter: If your climate is prone to strong wings, heavy rain or abundant snowfall, it is best to position bird feeders in sheltered areas. This will help protect the feeder and the birds using it from the brunt of poor weather. It will also make it easier to care for and refill the feeder in adverse conditions, just when the birds need nutritious food the most.
  • Mess: Bird feeders are naturally messy with discarded hulls, molted feathers and bird feces. Regular cleaning is essential, but positioning your feeder in a space where the mess will not be as noticeable or objectionable can minimize any annoyance. For example, place the feeder in a natural, brushy area instead of near a heavily manicured flowerbed or over a decorated patio. This way, any discards or leavings will not be as visible.

More Tips for Bird Feeder Placement

No matter where you place your bird feeders it may take several days or weeks for the birds to find the feeding station and make the best use of it. To help encourage the birds to enjoy your careful bird feeder placement…

  • Use colors to attract birds to a feeding station by adding nearby flowers, flower pots or decorative items to catch their attention.
  • Take steps to get birds to use a new feeder by providing their favorite seeds and other popular foods for them to try.
  • Provide nearby perches, bird baths and suitable shelter for both safety and nesting to meet all of the birds’ basic needs so they will stay in the area for more than just feeding.
  • Note seed levels and feeder positions regularly. Even if you aren't seeing the birds visit, they may be sneaking to your feeder when you aren't watching. As they get used to the feeder, their visits will be longer and more frequent, making it easier to see the birds in action.

    If no birds use your bird feeders, no matter how carefully they are placed, it can be helpful to move the feeder after 2-3 weeks and try again to attract birds. You may also need to inspect the feeder to be sure the food is fresh and accessible, and if everything is suitable, just be patient. In time, birds will learn where your feeders are, giving you many opportunities to enjoy their mealtime company.