Feed More Birds Without More Feeders

Fox Sparrow
Many sparrows will happily feed on the ground - no feeder needed!. Fyn Kynd Photography

Many birders want to feed more birds in their backyard, but cannot add more feeders to the landscape. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to offer treats to hungry feathered guests without increasing the backyard feeder count.

Why You Might Not Want More Bird feeders

There are many reasons why even the most enthusiastic backyard birders may not have room for just one more bird feeder. Depending on the circumstances, factors restricting feeders could include…

  • Community Regulations: Homeowner associations and other community covenants may limit the numbers of bird feeders, poles or other yard structures. Even if feeders have been permitted, regulation revisions could change how many feeders are or are not allowed.
  • Garden Design: Garden layout, including where poles, trees and other features are positioned, may limit where feeders can be placed for maximum effectiveness. Birders will not want to add more feeders in ways that could endanger the birds that visit them.
  • Budget: A good quality feeder can be expensive, and backyard birders with limited budgets may prefer to spend their money on seed or other foods and equipment rather than adding additional feeders to the landscape.
  • Pests: When squirrels, mice, raccoons and other bird feeder pests take over feeding stations, adding a new feeder could just be an invitation for more pests to visit, but taking alternative measures can feed the birds rather than the pests.
  • Maintenance: Adding a new bird feeder means a new commitment for proper care, including refilling, cleaning, winterizing and doing other tasks to keep the feeder safe and in good condition. If that maintenance will not be possible, it may be better to avoid a new feeder.

    Regardless of the reason, it isn't always possible to add new feeders to the yard. It is possible, however, to feed more birds, even without more feeders.

    More Food Without More Feeders

    There are plenty of ways to increase bird feeding capacity without adding extra feeders to the yard or replacing existing feeders with larger, bulkier models. To feed more birds…

    • Go Natural
      Eliminating all pesticides and adding more natural foods to the yard is the best option for feeding more birds without more feeders. Choose new berry bushes, seed-bearing grasses, nectar-rich flowers and other plants that can feed birds, and they will quickly discover these natural food sources. These foods renew themselves each year, dramatically decreasing a bird feeding budget without decreasing the foods available to birds.
    • Get Messy
      The most bird-friendly yards are not usually perfectly clean, neat or manicured. A little mess can actually mean a lot more bird food, as birds will take advantage of windfall fruit, dropped seeds and leaf litter for foraging. Avoid excessive pruning of food sources such as berry bushes or flowerbeds, and birds will have that much more to eat – no extra feeders required.
    • Try the Ground
      Instead of adding a new feeder, use natural ground space under feeding poles, on the edge of a deck or under a patio table as ground feeding areas for birds. Many different birds, including quail, grouse, doves, sparrows and thrushes will happily forage on the ground, and it is simple to sprinkle a bit of seed directly on the ground for their enjoyment. Avoid overloading a ground feeding area, however, or pests may take advantage of the bounty.
    • Evaluate Waste
      Study the most popular feeders in the yard to determine how much food may be going to waste rather than being consumed. Look for spilled seed or any foods that are going moldy or rotten before the birds eat them. Slight changes to the foods offered can eliminate that waste, so every morsel in the feeders goes to feed more birds rather than becoming garbage.
    • Discourage Bullies
      If feeders are being emptied by large flocks of aggressive species such as starlings, grackles or other bully birds, simple steps to discourage those birds can make more room and more food available for other species. It may be necessary to adjust feeders so they are less accessible to bully birds, such as removing or shortening perches, but other desirable birds will still be able to take advantage of the offerings.
    • Refill More Frequently
      If the feeders are emptied every day, more frequent refills could actually lead to feeding more birds. Birds have individual habits and loose routines, and the same birds may be visiting only when feeders are full, while other birds may pass the yard by later in the day because the feeders are empty. If the feeders are being refilled more often, more birds will learn to trust the yard as a reliable food source.
    • Attract More Birds
      While food will certainly attract birds, there are other ways to attract birds to the yard so they can discover a feeding station. Landscape with colors or colorful accents that will attract birds, or invest in a fountain or dripper for sounds to attract birds. As more birds visit the yard, they will discover the feeders and take advantage of a good food source, even without new feeders being added just for them.

    With just a few easy changes, any backyard birder can invite more birds to the buffet. The more birds that visit, the more likely new, unusual or vagrant birds will be part of the feeding flock, and the more exciting backyard birding can be.

    Photo – Fox Sparrow © Fyn Kynd Photography