Studies and surveys show that more than 45 million Americans enjoy watching birds, both at home and away from their home.
Do you want to set up the ideal spot in your back yard to sit and enjoy the local bird species that abound near your property? Preparing the perfect space is relatively easy, but it takes more than simply hanging a bird feeder and crossing your fingers that your feathered friends will find it.
Bird feeding stations can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, but they all have a few key parts in common. Today, we’re sharing how to create one at your home, one step at a time. Read on to discover the materials you’ll need and the process to follow.
What Are Bird Feeding Stations?
Before we dive into how to create the perfect one, let’s answer a basic question. What exactly is a bird feeding station? Can’t you just find any standard bird feeder, fill it with food, and hope for the best?
While this approach might be fine to some degree, you’ll be greatly limited in the number of birds that find and frequent your feeder. Remember these are dynamic, intelligent creatures that have specific needs and feeding requirements. A successful host is someone who makes these visitors feel safe, well fed, and pampered.
The better your feeding station caters to their needs, the more likely they are to visit it and keep returning. In addition, they’re also more liable to tell their friends about the spot, as well!
That said, how can you create the perfect oasis, designed to attract a wide variety of birds at any given time? There are three basic needs that your feeding station must meet. At the very minimum, it must provide:
Ultimately, a bird feeding station is any spot that you designate in your back yard, solely intended to attract, feed, and protect the birds that visit. While details of the station might change as your yard evolves over time, the basic elements should stay the same.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the top steps to follow when you’re ready to set up a bird feeding station of your own in your yard.
Step 1: Choose the Right Location
Any prospective homeowner looking to put down roots in a new property is told the same thing-- location matters. You could have the best house on the block, structurally speaking, but if it’s in a bad spot, the value plummets and the overall function declines.
The same goes for the homes you set up for your bird buddies. If you position your bird bath or bird feeder in an area where they feel unsafe or exposed to predators, they’re far less likely to make the trek.
To see the most success, start by considering the species of birds that you’re most interested in attracting. A bird’s natural history will help dictate the specific type of environment that it’s most drawn to. This will also affect the type of food it eats and where it chooses to build its nest.
For instance, some species like hummingbirds prefer nectar-rich plants and shrubs with tubular flowers, while others like the Louisiana waterthrush might choose to settle down in the woods along streams and rivers, known as a riparian habitat. Then, there are other birds, like the Henslow’s sparrow, that choose to spend time in wide, open fields and grasslands.
Another aspect to keep in mind is convenience and ease of use. You want to position your feeding station in an area where you can easily view it from your back patio or deck. It’s also best to choose a spot that’s easy to access for quick cleaning and food refills.
Meeting Basic Habitat Needs
If you’re catering to a specific species of bird, it’s helpful to do your research to understand the exact type of habitat they prefer. Otherwise, you can attract a great number of birds by looking for spots that provide quick access to the following areas:
Positioning your bird feeder in the middle of a barren, open field might appeal to a select number of species, but it won’t provide enough protection for most.
Instead, look for available spots along the edge of your woods or adjacent to trees and shrubs. This way, you can help visiting birds feel as safe as possible, with the confidence that they can secure a quick getaway if an encroaching predator approaches.
You may even discover that some birds spend time shrouding themselves in the leafy branches of a nearby tree or shrub before building up the confidence to fly to your station. Cardinals are an example of one species that tends to perform this “testing” ritual until they know for sure that they can trust your spot.
The only rule to keep in mind?
While you want your feeders close to a tree or fence, avoid placing it directly beside one. If you do, sneaky squirrels could use those structures as a jumping pad, catapulting directly into your feeding station and snatching the food. Of course, you can always keep these unwanted visitors at bay with a squirrel buster, such as our Squirrel Buster Standard. This particular product also keeps other intruders out, such as heavy, undesirable birds.
Landscaping With Birds in Mind
What do you do if your current back yard is pretty empty, and there is no tree line in sight? In this case, there won’t be too many places for birds to hide or take cover.
If possible, look for ways to landscape your property to add these features. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your existing setup, but adding a few native trees or shrubs can make a world of difference.
Why buy native species? While exotic plants are beautiful, they’re not as likely to attract local insects or bear nutritious fruit and seeds. Native plants, on the other hand, are a great place for these crawlers to hang out and provide seeds and berries that our wild birds love. This biodiversity makes an excellent natural food source for your perching pals!
Positioning the Station Away From Your House
Many birdwatching enthusiasts make the mistake of setting up a feeding station directly outside of their window. At the outset, this setup makes sense! The closer the items are, the better view you’ll get of the birds, right?
Unfortunately, while this design might be more entertaining for you, it could be dangerous for your tiny friends.
Placing a feeder too close to your window could cause visiting birds to collide into your windows. Ideally, try to set yours up at least 30 feet away from your home to avoid this issue. If a bird suspects a predator is near and flies away quickly from your feeding station, then this gives them enough space to do so safely.
If you truly want your station closer, then the other option is to place it within three feet of your home. This way, even if a bird does get startled and fly off, it will not have time or space to gather enough momentum for a harmful collision.
In this case, a small window-mounted bird feeder is ideal. Take a look at our Small Window Mount Tray Feeder for inspiration! Four suction cups keep the feeder in place right outside of your window, making it easy for birds to pop by and say hello!
Step 2: Choose the Right Bird Feeders
As the name implies, this is an area where your backyard birds will go to be fed. They should know that they can visit your station, fill their bellies, and feel secure, regardless of the time they choose to fly by.
That said, the type of bird feeder you choose matters. It’s best to hang a variety of different ones to attract a large number of diverse species! Let’s take a look at a few of the most common and well-performing models.
Ground Platform Feeders
When you think of a bird feeder, you might picture one mounted on a pole or swinging from a tree branch. However, ground feeders can also be highly effective.
These are designed to attract birds that prefer to graze this way. A few of the beautiful species you might see include cardinals, bluebirds, robins, grosbeaks, and buntings. Juncos, towhees, sparrows, grouse, quail, thrashers, doves, and pigeons are also known to feed low to the ground.
Our Ground Tray Recycled Feeder with Roof is a beautiful addition to any back yard, made with recycled materials that are built to last a lifetime and easy to keep clean.
Hopper feeders are sometimes called “house bird feeders,” because they tend to resemble a house. When you fill one with birdseed, the seed will dispense into a tray on the bottom. As birds eat away at it, the feeder will automatically replenish the stash, aided only by gravity.
A few of the bird species that love to frequent hopper feeders include jays, finches, grosbeaks, chickadees, and titmice. Our Oasis Recycled Feeder is a beautiful example of how simple yet stunning this kind of feeder can be.
Pole-Mounted Bird Feeders
Pole mounted bird feeders offer a soaring, gorgeous spot for birds to perch and fill their tanks. You can mount different styles of bird feeders to a pole, including many that can also be suspended by a cable.
The advantage of a pole-mounted feeder is that it’s safe from any ground-dwelling pests or intruders. However, you may want to install squirrel or raccoon guards, aka baffles, to ensure that none crawl up the pole.
Our Copper Seed Cylinder Feeder can be mounted to a one-inch-diameter pole using a slip mount. Surrounded by sturdy, 16-gauge vinyl-coated wire mesh, it features slender, 1.5-inch openings that keep both squirrels and starlings away. Another option is our Classic Deluxe Feeder, which is designed to be mounted on a 4x4 post.
Nyjer Seed Feeder
Want to attract finches and other melodious songbirds to your back yard? If so, you need a nyjer seed feeder! Nyjer seed is often referred to as thistle seed, although it is not related to the thistle plant.
Most of these feeders are designed to allow multiple birds to perch and feed at once, with landings situated in a spiral formation. Holding 1.5 pounds of seed, our Copper Spiral Nyjer (Thistle) Feeder is one example. Birds love to simply make their way around the spiral, rather than flying to another perch!
Hummingbird feeders are a specific type of nectar feeder, but they aren’t the only ones. You can also attract other nectar-loving birds to your feeding station by using a nectar feeder specifically designed to attract them.
For instance, our Ultimate Oriole Feeder includes plenty of space for nectar, orange slices, and jelly to make any visiting orioles happy! It also includes built-in ant moats to keep insects out and keep the food fresh.
If hummingbirds are on your mind, you can easily set up our Hanging Sphere Hummingbird Feeder to encourage them to fly nearby. Large enough to hold 3.4 ounces of nectar, it also features a bright red perch for them to rest.
In the winter, you can simply remove the hummingbird lid and convert this model into a versatile feeder ideal for food that doesn’t require drainage, such as mealworm, suet or jelly. This will attract songbirds and other species for year-round delight.
Many birds are attracted to suet, or beef fat. These include insect-eating species, such as wrens, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. While you can make homemade suet for use in cold weather, it’s readily available and formulated for year-round use at nature stores or online. We offer a range of Suet Plus flavors in easy open, no mess wrappers that use less packaging by weight than suet in a tray and are 100% recyclable.
Our Woodpecker Blend 11oz Suet Cake is a prime example.
This is a convenient, mess-free way to easily add suet to your feeder. When you’re ready to refill, these cakes slip effortlessly into your suet feeder, many of which are designed to hold at least two. This is the case with our Double Suet Cake Feeder, made from recycled plastic and milk jugs.
Step 3: Invest in Great Food
Think about it: Would you rather dine at a five-star restaurant with fresh, high-quality food or the local greasy spoon?
Birds aren’t much different than humans in that regard. They prefer feeding stations that keep a well-stocked supply of delicious, wholesome food. In turn, they’ll reward you with their loyalty and frequent visits.
As such, it pays to invest in great-quality food. While you can pick up a bag of economical feed at any big box store, many of these contain fillers and unnecessary ingredients that aren’t beneficial to the health or longevity of the birds you want to support.
At the same time, the opposite also holds true. One visit to a feeder filled with junk food, and most bird species won’t frequent it again, until something better is offered.
In general, it’s best to steer clear of seed that contains certain filler ingredients, such as:
While these ingredients enable manufacturers to fill up large bags of seed, they offer little nutritional value. Be sure to read the label of any bag you buy.
Want to head straight to the good stuff?
We offer a great variety of bird seed in our online shop, all made from delicious, top-shelf ingredients that birds love. Many bags are designed to appeal to a specific species of bird, custom blended to meet their specific dietary needs and preferences.
Take Martha’s Midland Songbird 20lb Bag, for instance. Our house blend bird seed is specially formulated for the songbirds that frequent the Midland, MI area. It contains a vibrant and healthy mix of different ingredients, including:
In addition, we also offer other types of bird seed for different species, including our Cardinal Favorite 5lb Bag, which includes a beautiful blend of safflower seeds, premium black oil sunflower seeds, and striped sunflower seeds!
Between fill-ups, be sure to keep your bird seed fresh and clean in an airtight container. Our 10 Gallon Seed Storage Cans with lids are a top-of-the-line way to safeguard your seed and come in fun colors, too.
Step 4: Make Sure Your Pole Is Sturdy
Did you decide to set up a few pole mounted bird feeders around your station? That’s a great decision, but it’s critical to make sure the setup is sturdy!
Bird feeder stands vary in terms of quality and reliability. In this case, it’s always best to buy a strong, durable one that you know will hold up against adverse weather, beating sun, and the curious paws of wannabe intruders.
For lightweight feeders, a shepherd’s pole and hook are often capable of holding up over time. However, most do best when mounted atop tougher, thicker feeder poles. You can browse our selection of USA made pole systems to see the different models we offer to meet all your feeding station needs.
For those looking to design the ultimate feeding station, we recommend our 5 Piece Feeder Pole Set, which comes with three pole sections, one pole-top hanger, and a twist ground socket. This tubular bird feeder pole is the heaviest-duty, American-made, commercially-available product of its kind. Want multiple hanging options? Check out our 5 Piece Feeder Pole Set with Twist and Trio Hook.
Of course, you’ll also need a great baffle to keep your pole pest free! Our Cone Squirrel Baffle/Squirrel Guard - Copper Tint is excellent for this purpose and visually stunning as well. Struggling with raiding raccoons? Try our Dome Top Raccoon and Squirrel Baffle.
Step 5: Add Water
Birds don’t just need to eat! They also need to fill their little bellies with fresh, healthy water.
Another benefit of adding a water station to your feeding setup? You’ll attract a wider variety of birds than you would by sticking to feeders alone. This is because a feeder will only attract certain species that eat that type of food. However, all birds need water!
They also need to bathe to clean their feathers, so a bird bath is an ideal piece to add.
The key factor to remember here is to keep the water fresh and change it regularly. Otherwise, it could turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and other microorganisms, which could threaten the health and safety of your birds.
Roughly every other time you change the water, it’s also best to scrub your bird bath to keep it fresh. If you live in an area (like Michigan!) that gets chilly in the winter, it’s best to invest in a heated bird bath. This way, you can ensure that the water won’t freeze and become unusable as the temperatures dip.
Check out our Heated Bird Bath - Ground Level to get started! This luxurious model offers 60 watts of comfort, and is thermostatically controlled. Even if temperatures drop to -20 Fahrenheit, you can still provide fresh water. We also offer other unheated models in our shop, such as this adorable Mini Hanging Bird Bath!
Enjoy Your Backyard Bird Feeding Station
It might take a little time to set up the perfect backyard bird feeding stations, but the effort is always worth it! When you take the time to choose the right location and materials, design the appropriate setup, and maintain your space regularly, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for years to come.
Ready to get started? We have all of the different types of gear you need to create the ideal haven for your local birds. From feeders and baths to seeds and poles, we’re the one-stop-shop that can get you started!
Feel free to browse our collections and contact us if you have any questions. You’re only a few steps away from transforming your property into the all-you-can-eat restaurant that famished flyers crave!