How to Overcome Bird Feeding Problems

"Understanding the problems,
brings backyard peace"

It is fairly certain that you will encounter some kind of obstacle that will need to be overcome when feeding wild birds in your yard.

We will look at some of the problems that can crop up from time to time and how they can be dealt with.

Sometimes there is more than one solution.

And sometimes one solution will work for one person and not another.So don't be discouraged if your friend does something that works beautifully for them to solve a situation, but when you try it, you do not attain the same success.

There may be another solution for you. 

(You will find links to more info related to this topic in the right column or bottom of page.)

Understanding all the guests and knowing something about all the guests is important whether they are welcome guests or not.

But, it is a fact to understand that all have been invited by putting out a bird feeder.

So you have to make your invitation specific of you don't want everyone showing up.

1. Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders (It’s true!)

It sounds like double talk I know, but there are actually feeders available now which do keep squirrels from eating up your bird food.

Of all the bird feeding problems that can arise, this is often the one that is the most difficult to stop.

Squirrels are as persistent as they are cute. (I know some of you would not agree with the second part of that statement.) ;-)

Best Squirrel Proof Feeders ~ 2 Stand Out 

#1 The first is the Squirrel Buster which actually comes in a variety of styles to feed different types of seed and wild birds; Squirrel Buster Plus, Squirrel Buster Standard and Squirrel Buster Finch Feeder.

When we had our store this was a best seller out of all our products. We sold a lot of these feeders. They soon pay for themselves with the saving on seed and damage to your feeders.

#2 The Droll Yankee Squirrel Flipper. This one is entertaining as well! Click on the links and watch the videos for these feeders. They really demonstrate how effective these feeders are.

See a complete selection of squirrel resistant bird feeders.

2. How to Stop Bird Seed Build Up Under Feeders

Poor quality seed will end up on the ground because the shells are empty and a poor quality mixed seed contains types of seed like wheat, buckwheat, milo, red millet etc. that the wild birds don’t eat. (Uneaten seed will spoil causing more bird feeding problems too.)

If you notice a lot of bird seed building up under your feeder then switch the brand of seed you are buying. Buy good quality wild bird seed. It may seem expensive, but the amount of seed you will save will more than make up for the initial purchase price.

Also if you don't want shells all over the ground or your deck, you can hang a seed catcher under your feeder to catch the shells.

Or uneaten seed. There will always be some seed that gets tossed "over board". If you are using a mixed seed some birds are "picky" eaters and will search through your mix looking for the type of seed they like best.

A seed catcher will also act as a platform feeder as many types of birds prefer to eat from a flat surface such as Cardinals, Juncos, Finches, Sparrows.

For Catching Seed & Shells Before They Reach The  Ground ~ My Recommendations

Large selection of bird seed catchers here.

High Quality Seed Makes #1 - Try Wagner's

or Morning Song

3. Use A Nyjer (Or Thistle) Feeder

 To ease bird feeding problems:

A bird feeder that dispenses only nyjer (thistle) seed is very effective at deterring larger birds and squirrels. (Nyjer seed is a very small seed which requires a special feeder.)

Squirrels, Blackbirds and Starlings are not usually attracted to nyjer seed.

And if the nyjer feeder is a tube style feeder, the larger birds will not be able to sit on the feeder to eat, as it is unmanageable for them. It will attract Gold Finches by the dozens, Chickadees and Purple Finches.

See my thistle/nyjer feeder recommendations on my all about thistle feeder page here.

4. Tube Feeders Can Solve Problems

Tube feeders for sunflower seeds that have metal feeding ports and perches will prevent the squirrels from chewing the holes larger and chewing off the perches.

(If larger pesky birds are managing to eat at a tube feeder and the perches are made of wood or plastic then cut off the perches to about an inch and a half long. This length is not long enough for them to perch and will reduce bird feeding problems.)

5. Globe Feeders Can Help Too

Use a globe feeder that only clinging agile birds can use like Chickadees, small Woodpeckers, some Finches and Nuthatches.

Large, non clinging birds cannot feed from this type of bird feeder.

6. Upside-down Suet Feeders Make It Difficult for Some Birds

They allow only clinging birds to feed from them, such as Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Brown Creepers and some Finches.

The underside is the only surface a bird can eat from with this type of suet feeder which requires a lot of agility.

(Blackbirds and Starlings are not clinging birds and therefore find them a little harder to manage. Although I can't promise they won't be successful. ;))

7. Safflower Seed is A Cardinals Favourite

Most birds and squirrels do not like to eat safflower seed.

Safflower seed can be used in hopper style bird feeders. Clean the feeder out well so there is now trace of other smells like peanuts or sunflower seeds and then fill with only safflower seed. Cardinals and a few other birds love this seed.

I have had good success keeping squirrels away using safflower seed, but found that some Blackbirds still would eat it.

Try it and if the critters you are trying to un-envite don't like it, bonus!

Good selection of safflower seed here.

(Be aware though that some seed featured on the page is a Cardinal blend with black oil sunflower seed. Which are the Cardinals favourite, but will also keep the unwanted birds and squirrels coming back because they love it too.)

8. Cayenne And Other Hot Peppered Seed Should Never Be Used

You may find it surprising but this is why:

Do not use seed with cayenne or other hot peppers to deter squirrels. Squirrels have been known to scratch out their eyes and chew off their paws to get rid of the burning.

What if a wild bird where to preen itself after eating this seed and some of the hot pepper got on its body? This would be devastating.

It also is not healthy for wild birds as it lowers their body temperature. Wild birds spend all day foraging for food to acquire enough energy to carry on their daily activities and go through the night, especially in cold climates. It would only be counter productive for them to feed them this type of seed creating a new bird feeding problem. This could be fatal in the winter.

9. Cage Feeders Can Be Part of the Solution Too

Are a bird feeder surrounded by a wire cage with large enough openings for small birds. Usually tube feeders, suet feeders and small hopper style feeders come in cages.

Larger birds like Starlings and Blackbirds, grey squirrels and black squirrels cannot fit through the openings to reach the bird seed. No guarantees though for red squirrels! ;-)

Caged Bird Feeders ~ My Top Recommendations With Reviews & Gold Star Ratings

Variety of caged feeders here.

10. Double Grid System Feeders:

This type of bird feeder is a platform bird feeder with two horizontal grids that cover the feeding area, leaving spaces which are small enough to keep paws out and large beaks.

11. Put Out A Squirrel Feeder To Distract Them

Bird feeding problems can also be turned into other fun activities.

Provide one of the many entertaining squirrel feeders on the market or make your own.

Squirrels bring out many diverse emotions and attitudes among people who bird feed. But understanding them and adjusting our behaviour can make life easier for us.

So get a squirrel feeder and enjoy the fun!

Feed the Squirrels With Their Own Feeders

12. Feed The Other Pests Too!

But don’t think the Squirrels, Blackbirds and other pesky birds will necessarily stop trying, even if they can’t access your bird feeders. So fill the feeder you are using now or a platform feeder or tray feeder with cheap seed, like corn and red millet.

And to help solve this bird feeding problem once a day at the same time everyday add a few peanuts in the shell, sunflower seeds and/or reduced baked goods. This will attract all the greedy birds and squirrels to that feeder. Place this feeder off by itself away from your other feeders, in an easy accessible location for them, preferably away from your favourite viewing area.

But read how one visitor to this site was pleasantly surprised by the "pesty squirrels" visit. 

Love the site...

I am a bird feeding fanatic! 

Trudging in the brutal cold to fill my dozen (and growing) bird feeders during the winter to my wildflower garden with birds and butterflies in mind....I just love it. 

I also seem to fight with the squirrels that invade my black oil sunflower seed and make such a mess spilling them out of my feeders.  I usually get so angry but maybe there is a silver lining to the aggravation.

Not sure what made me look out the window but there on the ground in my front yard eating the seed on the ground was 3 wild turkey hens and 37 chicks.  What a thrill!

Charlotte USA

13. Bird Feeding Problems & Domestic Cats Go Together

Domestic cats pose bird feeding problems unto themselves. Cats won’t eat the seed in the bird feeders but they will consume the wild birds eating at the bird feeders.

They are attracted solely for the sport of hunting and so it is incumbent upon us, since we have attracted the feathered ones in the first place, to protect them from the felines we also keep as pets.

Read more to understand this particular problem The Number One Backyard Bird Predators are…?.

14. Birds Of Prey Love That We Feed Songbirds, So What Can We Do?

Backyard feeding can be like setting a table for predators like hawks. Birds of Prey are doing what they need to do to survive.

There are actions we can take to reduce the unfair advantage we have provided birds of prey by attracting song birds to our feeders. Read here.

Coopers HawkCoopers Hawk

But the fact that the table is set beside our house is a deterrent.

Also providing shelter close to your bird feeding station like a bush or shelter of some kind is important. This will give the songbirds a place to hide if necessary.

We have to understand to appreciate and respect the many ways animals survive.

15. Snakes Love Eggs Too

Snakes will not be a contributor to bird feeding problems but will be attracted to bird houses and nests to eat the baby birds and eggs.

More information to combat this problem at Backyard Bird Predators.

16. Raccoons And Squirrels Are Predators Too

Both of these types of animals will visit bird feeders to partake of the bird seed. And they will also visit bird houses to eat the eggs or very young birds.

You can add a baffle to your pole that your bird feeder or bird house is mounted on to keep these two invaders away.

Or mount an umbrella baffle over a hanging bird feeder or bird house.

Baffles ~ Pole Mount or Hanging

Large selection of different types of baffles here.

17. Hummingbird Feeder Nectar Attracts Unwelcome Guests

Nectar feeders have problems all their own. But they are not insurmountable. Find some good tips at "Hummingbird Feeder Nectar Attracts Unwelcome Guests".

Nectar Feeder Brushes ~ My Top Picks 

Excellent for cleaning mold from the inside of the nectar holder.

A great set small enough to get into narrow necks on nectar bottles.

I love using wipes to clean the perches often. They make it so easy.

   Hummingbird feeder accessories here.    

18. Bee Swarms In Bird Houses, Not a Good Thing

Sometimes bees will take up residence in a bird house. It can be a perplexing and potentially dangerous situation if not dealt with correctly. Find the solution on how to deal with this problem here at Beekeeping.

19. Starlings & Blackbirds Can Ruin Everything

Starlings and Blackbirds can take over and consume large quantities of bird seed. But there are things you can do to eliminate or reduce bird feeding problems like this.

Find helpful tips on my Starlings and Blackbird page.

After learning the facts about bird feeding problems and implementing solutions, a greater satisfaction will be derived from this wonderful hobby.

Become A Backyard Bird Expert

        Would you like to be a bird expert able to:

  • Know by sight all the birds that visit your backyard?
  • Identify the birds you hear on a walk?
  • Answer your Grandkids or friends question, "What bird is that?".

Looking for a particular product? Search here!

Find solutions to other problems below or in the sidebar above.

  • BirdStrikes - They smash into our windows, it is so distressing. What can we do? Get some help to solve this terrible problem.
  • Pests at Bird Feeders - Understanding all the pests that come to bird feeders and bird houses is essential before success at controlling them is possible. Learn to un-invite the guests you do not want.
  • #1 Backyard Predator? - Many people think of "birds of prey" as the number one enemy of backyard birds, but they are not! Find out the predator that kills millions of songbirds each year in North America.

> Bird Feeding Problems

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