How Often Should You Refill Your Bird Feeder? Ornithologist Gives Advice

Are you concerned about how often you should refill your bird feeder? You are at the right place as this post will guide you to the answer.

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David A. Swanson

May 16, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Maintaining a healthy garden that is full of chirps can be quite a task. One way to maintain the regular visits of beautiful birds is to provide them with a regular supply of bird feed by gaining their trust. However, the question arises: how often should you refill your bird feeder?

It is one of the most commonly asked questions by almost every bird feeder owner. Many people also inquire what happens if the bird feeder goes empty. Therefore, we contacted an ornithologist to get some answers!

You must refill the feeder either once every day or once its near empty. Generally, the feeder gets near empty every day, if your garden has sufficient birds. If the feeder is maintained as a reliable source of food for birds, you will gain the birds’ trust.

Why Should you Keep the Feeder Filled?

yellow finch at feeder

The best way to gain birds' trust is to let them have a consistent supply of meals through your bird feeder.

Accordint to orthinologists, the wild birds that you are serving are vigilant and fast at finding new food sources for themselves. Hence, if you miss out on a day of refilling your bird feeder while your neighbors have a full feeder, these birds will take no time in abandoning yours and shifting to theirs.

You have to make sure that your feeder is a reliable source of food for them. However, many birds will return to your feeder once you refill it after a long time. But a bunch of birds that won’t return until they feel that your feeder is reliable. This can take some time.

This works exactly like a newly started business and the initial birds that are coming to your feeder will attract other new birds to come. In such a case, missing out on refilling isn’t an option.

How Often Do Feeders Get Empty?

black headed grosbeak

The actual time of bird feeders getting empty can vary. For some, it can be a day while for others, it can be a few hours as well.

What are the Factors That Affect the Time The Bird Feeder Takes to Empty?

The bird feeder can empty quicker depending on the size of the feeder, the type of food, the feeder style and the number of birds that approach it. Apart from that, if some other animals eat the food the feeder will also empty fast.

There are a couple of factors that affect the time of bird feeder getting emptied.

1. Size of Feeder

If you have a large sized bird feeder then you can relax for a whole day without worrying. You won’t need to refill its container every other hour. Many small feeders can be feasible for feeding small size seeds, however, if you are using it for general birds, then it might not be the most convenient option.

2. Type of Food

There is a variety of food that you offer to your garden birds and the size and nature of the food you offer to them affects the rate at which the container gets empty. One of the common foods like sunflower seed hulls is most convenient for bird feeder owners as it does not need a refill until the day ends.

You can explore the Kaytee Feeder Station for Suet Wild Bird Feeder here.

Kaytee Feeder Station for Suet Wild Bird Feeder

The Kaytee Suet Feeder Station works great with wild bird mini cakes and suet.

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3. Number of Birds

It is one of the most important factors that affects the rate of your bird feeder getting empty. Once you start feeding wild birds, the number that approaches the feeder will increase. Hence, you must keep a check on the number of birds you are to feed and adjust refills accordingly.

4. Feeder Style

The feeder style is also a very essential factor as many birds can drop the seeds without consuming them which can let the feeder go empty at a very fast rate.

5. Birds’ Perception of the Safety of Feeder

If you have placed your feeder at a very unsafe place for birds then very few and daring birds will come to the feeder leaving it to be unconsumed for a long time.

However, in a safe and bird-friendly environment with no predator attacks, birds can munch on their favorite food emptying the container fast.

6. Raccoons and Other Wildlife Eating The Feed

Other than the birds, there are a couple of animals that also enjoy munching on the bird feed that you provide in the feeder. One of the most common animals that invade this bird property are raccoons which can consume nearly half of your bird feeder.


If you find your feeder getting empty at a rate faster than usual then you must look out for the squirrels that might be consuming the bird feed you put in the feeders.

How to Easily Maintain Full Feeders?

blue jay at feeder

To maintain full feeders, either get more feeders or larger ones. Get no-waste seeds for the birds and don’t let any other animal snack on the feed.

It can get very difficult for any bird feeder owner to maintain a feeder that gets empty every other hour. Moreover, it can get frustrating if you are using some expensive seeds and have to maintain a budget for these birds.

However, you can keep your bird feeder full without having to say no to the flock that is coming as a guest to your garden.

1. Place either More Feeders or Larger Ones

If you place a variety of feeders in your garden then you can manage to feed different types of birds at once. Moreover, putting larger capacity containers can make birds feel more satisfied without being too hasty to eat them all.

2. Prevent Food From Going to Waste

If you minimize the likelihood of the birdseed going to a waste, then you can save a lot on your feed budget. Some seeds are available in the market known as no-waste seeds that do not have hulls, fillers, and unwanted seeds. This way birds won’t drop unwanted seeds to the ground. Therefore, only get them.

3. Prevent Animals from Getting the Feed

Other wildlife like raccoons, mice, chipmunks, deer, and rats can consume the feed at a very fast rate and you must always discourage them if you want to feed birds regularly without having to skip.

Did You Know?

Raccoons are great climbers and if you hang your birdfeeder, they can climb up the pole to get the food.

When Can You Skip Filling the Feeder?

red bellied woodpecker at feeder

You can skip filling the feeder for a day or two to clean the feeder. Doing so will give the birds the chance to eat fallen seeds and may also distract predators who kept an eye on your feeder.

The feeder can be left empty for a day or two for cleaning purposes as bird feeders are not the only source of food for your garden birds.

Benefits of Leaving Your Bird Feeder Empty For a Day or Two

Many people think that it is essential to refill bird feeders as soon as it empties. However, leaving your bird feeder empty occasionally for about a day or two can be beneficial.

A few benefits are:

1. Birds will Clean Food That Has Fallen on the Ground

Once your birds will notice that the feeder is empty, they will try to search for an alternative source for the food. The nearest food source would be the ground where they would have dropped the seed earlier. Hence, by leaving your feeder empty after some time can get you a cleaner environment under the feeder.

2. A Large Flock of Birds May Break Improving Health Outcomes

Breaking the large flocks of birds is often necessary as it decreases the chance of spreading any bird diseases. Different diseases like finch eye disease and Avian box can be very harmful for birds when a sick bird is exposed to large flocks.

3. Gives You Time to Clean The Feeder

Leaving your feeder empty or vacant for some time, can help give you time to clean and maintain the feeder. This prevents the formation of any kind of mold and bacterial growth in the feeder.

4. Distracts Predators Like Hawks

Upon noticing an empty bird feeder, many of the hawks will move or displace to other food sources.

Why Should You Always Have Multiple Bird Feeders?

finch at bird feeder

By having more than one bird feeder, you can make sure that none of your little bird friends go with an empty stomach from your garden.

Just like humans, many birds also have their favorite foods, and they will tend to pick up their most favorite chunk of the food from the feed. Hence, if you place different kind of seeds into the bird feeder, you can let them have their favorite one without having to throw the undesirable ones from the mixed feed.


With more than one type of feeder, you can gather different types of beautiful birds in your garden and satisfy all your aesthetic dreams!

Keep Reading!

Maintaining a bird feeder isn’t an easy task and you can have questions like, how often should you refill your bird feeder?

Your goal should be to at least refill the feeder once every day, either in the day time or night. Second, keep an eye out on the feeder to monitor the feed levels and as soon as you see the levels decrease, you can refill the feeder.

This post answered the question of how often should one refill their feeders and what factors need to be considered while maintaining a healthy feed routine for the birds. If you are a bird enthusiast and wish you capture the visiting birds in a frame, read through our blog on backyard bird photography essentials for optimum results.

Backyard Bird Photography: Essential Gear for Beginners - Here is Your Expert & Exciting Guide!

Here’s your expert and exciting guide to set you on course for a captivating photography experience. Backyard bird photography just got better, learn how!

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By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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