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 have the same success.

There may be another solution for you.

How Do Bird Feeding Problems Start?

The Invitation is the Trouble!

By hanging up a bird feeder, you have sent out an invitation to your neighbourhood wildlife.

“Come one, come ALL!”, is the call everyone hears!

All types of wild birds, grey squirrels, black squirrels, red squirrels, flying squirrels, rats, mice, skunks, racoons, bears, respond to your generous invitation!

Then those guests invite, with their presence, other animals.

Such as birds of prey, feral cats and neighbour’s cats, who lurk about, waiting for the opportunity to have lunch too.

Did you imagine this is what you had done?

It certainly was not your intention, was it?

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 at the buffet!

1. Is This Cute Little Critter Causing You Lots of Challenges?

You are not alone. There are many other people who share your frustration.

There are solutions. Some work very well. Discover help for your Squirrel problems here "Baffle Squirrels".

2. How to Stop Bird Seed Build Up Under Feeders?

There will always be some seed that gets tossed "over board".

Poor quality seed will end up on the ground.

Mixed seed will be tossed while birds look for their favourite seed.

 Learn about different methods to cleanup the mess under bird feeders.

3. Will a Nyjer (Or Thistle) Feeder Help to Fix 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. But 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. How can Tube Feeders 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. How can Feeders Designed for Small Birds Help?

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

Larger birds find this type of bird feeder too difficult to manage.

Many larger birds are not good at clinging and eating.

The perches on small feeders often don't allow enough room for the larger birds to perch and eat comfortably.

So if a small feeder accompanies a larger one the small birds have a place to go to eat in peace.

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. Which Wild Birds Will Eat Safflower?

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 no trace of other smells like peanuts or sunflower seeds and then fill with only safflower seed.

Cardinals and a few other birds love it.

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-invite don't like it, bonus!

8. Why Hot Peppered Seed Should Never Be Used?

You may find it surprising but this is why: Hot Peppered Seed Should Not be Used in Your Bird Feeder

This is what the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has to say about using bird seed which contains hot peppers:

"Squirrels (and other mammals) may be deterred from consuming birdseed treated with capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers “hot.” Many commercial products are coated with capsaicin, but we are unaware of any research examining the effect of high doses of capsaicin on birds. Although capsaicin may not negatively affect wild birds, we discourage adding any products to bird foods that have not been thoroughly tested.”

So, if this highly respected institution is warning against the use of hot peppered bird seed then, perhaps using this method of deterring squirrels should be stopped.

Here is another thought about this to consider.

It may not be harmful for wild tropical birds living in a warm climate or exotic birds who live as pets in human homes that are climate controlled, to consume hot peppers.

As stated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there have been no studies conducted to prove that feeding wild birds in hot or cold climates, capsaicin containing products is harmful or safe.

Therefore, why take the risk?

Here is something else to consider:

The following is a direct quote from the National Pesticide Information Center

“Capsaicin is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.”

It is also interesting to know that capsaicin is a broad-spectrum pesticide. This means that while it is used to kill or deter unwanted insects, it will also kill some good insects such as bees.

One last point.

The reason the squirrels stop eating seed treated with hot peppers is... right, it causes them pain!

9. How do Cage Feeders Help to Solve Bird Feeding Problems?

Cage feeders 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! ;-)

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

   Variety of Caged Feeders Here  

10. 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

11. 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…?.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

Baffle Squirrels with Pole Mount or Hanging Above

Large selection of different types of baffles here.

15. 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 

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

Bird Poop Remover Wet Wipes

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

   Hummingbird feeder accessories here.    

16. 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.

17. 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.

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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.

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