If you're new to bird watching in your garden or if you're not impressed so far with the progress you've made in attracting some feathered friends, it could well be to do with the placement or positioning of the feeders.
When we started out on this journey to encourage wildlife into our small town garden, we thought we knew a lot about birds because we've enjoyed watching them on nature walks for years. However we really knew nothing when it came to actually attracting them in to feed.
We've since learned a huge amount by trial and error and are now sharing that knowledge with you so you don't make our same mistakes. It can make a big difference as to where you put out or hang your feeders. It's not just about what you give the birds to eat, it's also about where you offer that food too. You can discover more on the best and worst places to put favorite edibles such as seeds, suet, fat balls and mealworms.
Attracting Birds Can Take Weeks or Months
Give it Time for Feeders to Be Found Before Moving Them
For us, it took 6 weeks to attract birds to the feeders in our backyard - not because there was anything wrong with the location but just because it can take a long time for them to find this new source of food. If, after reading through the tips and deciding that your placement is fine, then wait for a while before taking action.
It really is worth the wait. There is nothing I like better than seeing our early morning Robin come to collect his mealworms before the noisy Starlings are out in force. Then the blackbirds (black male and brown feathered female) hopping about the lawn hunting for worms and sometimes some of the fallen food scraps from the feeders. After this there is a real rabble of squabbling Starlings and in-between their visits come the Sparrows, Tits, Finches, Doves and the fat Wood Pigeons. Our garden has never been such a hive of activity.
The Starlings, in particular, love to sit up high on this TV aerial (on the house to the rear of our yard) before they all charge down to feed. It's unbelievable how well-behaved they are all lining up and scouting out the area below before they descend in one loud rabble on to the feeders in our yard. They seem to bicker and squabble constantly while feeding and are terrible at sharing food unless they are feeding their young with whom they have much patience. They're so full of character and a delight to watch.
Tips on Where to Locate the Feeders
1: Place Feeders Where You Can Watch the Birds
The first rule of thumb is to place the feeders where you can enjoy watching the birds in action, even if it's at a distance through a pair of binoculars. You want to see and take pleasure from your backyard birding efforts. If you are unable to see what's happening then you'll really lose out on something that is special and a privilege to witness. And, of course, it will help to keep you more interested too.
2: Birds Need to Feel Safe to Feed
Birds need to feel safe before they will feed so it's best to place feeders where natural predators of your garden birds (cats, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and dogs etc.) would find it hard to launch a successful attack. The best position is really out in an open area of your garden that has good all-round visibility for birds to easily spot any potential threat coming their way and definitely away from somewhere that a neighborhood cat could easily hide.
Yet, they need shelter too - somewhere not far from the feeders where the birds can quickly dive for cover if they spot a bird of prey or another threat. Nearby trees, bushes and shrubs make great natural cover and protection.
Thorn bushes and shrubs are perfect because small birds can easily hide in those without getting hurt while cats and other predators are unable to attack. Our bushes are around 2 metres from the feeders although 3 (10 feet) is more the recommended distance.
Chaffinch Eating Seed from an Open, Raised Platform
3: Choose a Quiet and Undisturbed Area
A quiet part of your garden away from the noise, hustle and bustle is preferable. Some birds learn to become incredibly tame to get closer to good food sources. Robins and blackbirds here in the UK are pretty tame and will still come and feed even while our little girl is playing not far away.
Many birds have a lower tolerance for disturbance and you can miss out on seeing shy species with the wrong location. Since we don't have a huge plot of land, that meant placing the feeders near the bottom of the garden so we can still use the top half when we want to.
4: Position Feeders at Different Heights
Try locating feeders at varying heights. This is for a number of reasons. Essentially you want to mimic the natural eating habits of the birds so that they feel comfortable enough to come and dine in your outdoor space. Some birds are natural ground feeders (blackbirds and other thrushes, robins) and others enjoy feeding at tall heights, away from the easy reach of some of their natural predators. Experimentation for what works for you is the best way to go.
European Robin: Voted the UK's Favorite Bird
5: Make the Food Easy to Spot
Consider how visible the food is from the point of view of any birds flying overhead. Once they know what's on offer, especially if it's a favorite food, they'll make a visit part of their daily routine round the area. But they need to easily spot it first. This goes hand in hand with having the feeding equipment a little out in the open as well.
6: Choose Equipment That is Easy to Use and Clean
Most of the considerations are to do with the birds. But you also need to think about yourself as well. Think about how easy it is for you to refill and clean equipment. If you offer water with a bird bath in your backyard, this needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent diseases being spread to the birds.
If you're positioning items in a really difficult place where it's too high for you to reach without a ladder then that's not going to work well long-term. I'm short, at just over 5 foot, so when we made our wooden stations, we designed them with how far I could reach in mind.
7: Think About Weather Protection
Does your feeding equipment need weather protection? We are well used to rain in the UK, so we made sure that all the seed, suet, fat balls and other edibles are partially protected. To do this, we hung them under sheltered ledges and areas to help to keep the food dry and to stop it from going rancid and spoiling quickly. Think about how you can easily add some shelter from the type of weather you have. Does the equipment need to go in a shady spot from an intense heat or be covered from rain or snow.
8: Squirrel-Proof the Bird Seed and Nuts
We don't get squirrels in our back garden but the local nature reserve that we enjoy has plenty and that's where we caught this cheeky one who was happy to pose for the camera. Squirrels are opportunistic feeders and destructive (gorgeous creatures as they are) and if they can get to food, they will get to it. They also can eat huge amounts of nuts and seed which will be sore on your pocket.
If you get squirrels locally, place the feeders where they cannot easily jump or climb - well away from trees, fences, walls and other items in your yard that they can launch off. Use squirrel proof feeders where possible and baffles to prevent them from climbing poles where food is hanging. 
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9: Space Food Out to Attract More Birds
Spread food out if you can. Once we started to attract birds to feed, we soon realized that we needed to spread the food out more to really prevent the boisterous Starlings from scaring other birds away with their rowdy antics and bad table manners. So we quickly started to build another wooden table. This didn't stop the Starlings from squabbling but it gave other birds such as Sparrows, Tits and Finches a chance to eat at the same time. 
10: Guard Against Window Collisions
Be wary of possible window collisions. Too many birds die each year from flying head-on into windows. This is really sad and it is preventable too. Either position feeding equipment really close to windows (less than 3 feet) which ensures that birds slow down to feed and are less likely to have a fatal collision. Or place the equipment more than 10 feet away from windows so a bird has plenty of room to take off from it safety. You can get decals for your windows or special shade cloths that help to deter birds from flying straight into the glass.
Use This Experience to Encourage More Birds to Feed
Encouraging birds to feed in your garden can mean some trial and error as you discover what works and what doesn't work over time. The tips here have all come from my personal experience in aiming to create a backyard where we can enjoy watching birds as they eat, drink and bathe. Though the tips may help to speed up results, it will still take some time before you attract more birds. It will be worth the wait when they come.
Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.