Can You Overfeed Garden Birds?

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Do you enjoy watching from your window as birds feed in your garden?

If so, you might have wondered if you can overfeed garden birds.

overfeeding garden birds explained
Can you overfeed garden birds?

In Short – No you can’t overfeed garden birds, but there are some things you should know before you put several full bird feeders in your yard.

Will Birds Overeat?

Birds are not like humans. When tasty food is put in front of them, they won’t continue to eat until they are beyond stuffed and uncomfortable.

birds overeat seeds
Will backyard birds overeat?

If there is food available, they will eat as much as they need and then stop.

As the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

So you can put out all the bird seeds you want, but unless the bird needs food, it isn’t going to sit and empty your bird feeder.

Will Birds Become Dependent on Your Feeders?

Another common concern is that birds will become dependent on your bird feeders and will no longer be able to fend for themselves. However, this is also not the case.

Hummingbird hotel in a backyard
Hummingbird hotel

Birds are very smart and adaptable creatures.

If their natural food sources dwindle, they will simply turn to other food sources. And, once those food sources become available again, they will quickly go back to eating them.

So, while you may see birds at your feeders every day, that doesn’t mean they are relying on your food to survive.

They are just taking advantage of an easy meal that is available to them.

What to Put in Your Feeder

Now that you know you can’t overfeed birds and they won’t become dependent on your feeders, you may be wondering what you should put in your bird feeder.

15 Bird Table Design Ideas
Bird Table Design Ideas

The best bird food is black-oil sunflower seed.

This type of seed has a high-fat content, which is perfect for providing the birds with the energy they need.

You can also put out thistle seed, which is a favorite of many types of birds. And suet, which is raw beef fat, is also a good option and provides birds with a much-needed source of protein.

Foods to Avoid Leaving Out

There’s also a short list of foods that shouldn’t be put in bird feeders. The main food to avoid is bread.

Bread is actually not good for birds.

It doesn’t have the nutrients they need and can fill them up without providing them with the energy they require.

Little birds enjoy
Greenfinches

The same goes for other baked goods because the ingredients are heavily processed.

You should also avoid using low-quality foods. You shouldn’t buy bird seed if it contains lots of fillers like cracked corn, milo, oats, or wheat.

These don’t provide much nutrition for birds, so they aren’t likely to eat them, which means you’ll end up with a pile of wasted food under your bird feeder that could attract pests.

Other foods to avoid include:

  • Uncooked rice
  • Chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Junk food

How Often Should You Feed the Birds?

Now that you know what to put in your bird feeder, you may be wondering how often you should fill it.

Bluebirds will look for food after fledging
Bluebirds looking for food

The general rule of thumb is to put out enough food for the birds to eat in one day.

However, this will vary depending on the time of year and the number of birds visiting your feeders.

  • In the winter – when food is scarce, you may need to fill your bird feeders more often. And in the summer, when natural food sources are plentiful, you can cut back on the amount of bird seed you put out.
  • In the summer – young birds are learning how to forage for food, so by not filling your bird feeder as often, you will help them learn to find food in the wild.

You should also adjust the amount of food you put out based on the number of birds visiting your feeders.

If you have a lot of birds, you will need to put out more food. And if you only have a few birds, you can get away with putting out less.

Why Only a Day’s Worth of Food?

Why only put out a day’s worth of food?

Wouldn’t it be easier to just fill your bird feeder once a week?

Yes, it would be easier, but that’s not necessarily better.

Bottle Feeder Table idea
Bottle Feeder Table

There are a few reasons why you should only put out a day’s worth of food:

  • Bird feed is going to attract more than just birds. Mice, rats, squirrels, and other pests are going to be drawn to the food source if it sits in the feeder for too long. This means less food for the birds that you’re seeing in your backyard, and an increase in bacteria and potential disease being brought to the food.
  • An empty bird feeder will allow you to clean it before filling it again. All parts of the bird feeder should be cleaned including any glass, perches, or trays. By doing this you can help prevent the spread of disease from pests to the birds.
  • You can also monitor the types of foods the birds in your garden like and which ones they don’t. If you notice a pile of one type of seed on the ground under the bird feeder, your birds may not like that food. Instead of spending more money on seeds that they won’t eat, you should change to a different blend.

Final Thoughts

So, can you overfeed garden birds?

No, you cannot overfeed birds. They are smart creatures that will only eat as much as they need. And, even if their natural food sources are scarce, they will quickly turn to other sources of food.

However, you can put out too much food and attract other pests to your backyard.

It’s important to only put out a day’s worth of bird seed so that you can monitor the food, clean the feeders, and prevent unwanted visitors.

Now grab a tea, some binoculars, and maybe a camera and you’re ready to watch the birds that flock to your garden to enjoy the food you’ve put out for them!