Do Birds Eat From Feeders at Night? 

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Ever wondered if birds eat from feeders at night too? Those of us with bird feeders may wonder if there are any regular nighttime visitors to our backyard cafes. There are thousands of bird species that visit feeders throughout the day, so there have to be some that come at night, right?

This article discusses the nocturnal feeding habits of birds and the ways that may impact how you use your bird feeder. Check out these facts, which will help you understand backyard bird behavior.

Key Takeaways:

  • Birds rarely eat from feeders at night, unless there is an artificial light source that illuminates the feeder.
  • Dawn to mid-morning is the best time to watch for birds eating at your feeder.
  • It’s okay to leave most bird feeders out at night even if birds only visit them during the day.

Do birds eat from feeders at night?

If there is a light source around the feeder, some common birds, like house finches or pigeons, may stop by for a snack. However, most birds that have a seed-based diet are diurnal, meaning that they prefer to eat during the day when they have light to see their surroundings. You’re more likely to see birds eat from your feeders at dawn and dusk than during the nighttime.

What birds go to feeders at night?

Very few species of birds visit feeders at night. Some common songbirds, including house finches, pigeons, and sparrows may visit feeders around dusk and into early evening, but this is uncommon.

Most feeder activity tails off around sunset. If you have an artificial light near your bird feeder, such as a porch light or lamp in the window, you may get a few daring visitors to the feeder, since they can see the perches to land on.

Most birds, especially songbirds, avoid venturing out at night because they rely on sight as their primary navigational sense. After the sun sets, they have much less light to see their surroundings and avoid potential threats.

Instead of foraging with great difficulty during night hours, most use this time to sleep until the sun rises. This pattern of behavior – sleep at night, move during the day – marks them as diurnal, the same as humans.

What time are birds most active at feeders?

Birds are most active at feeders in the morning. They feed heavily in the morning because they need to replenish nutrients lost while sleeping. Most songbirds have very high metabolisms, so eating as soon as they wake up supports their bodies’ demand for nutrients.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for these backyard visitors!

Should bird feeders be brought in at night?

No. Bird feeders are containers that are specifically engineered for long-term outdoor use. In everyday situations, there’s no need to make a habit out of bringing your feeder indoors at night.

One exception to this rule is a hummingbird feeder. In hot weather, hummingbird nectar spoils rapidly. To preserve hummingbird nectar’s freshness, consider taking down the feeder and storing it in the fridge until the next morning.

You’ll want to put the feeder out early the next morning, since most birds prefer to feed at dawn. Don’t forget to change and clean the feeder as needed.

In extreme weather events, however, bringing in your bird feeder is a good choice. High winds and heavy rain could knock the feeder down and damage it.

When should bird feeders be taken down?

man hanging a bird feeder

Take down your bird feeder at the end of the season and when it needs to be cleaned. Exactly how often you do so depends on your habitat zone and what types of food you provide to the birds.

In temperate climates, cleaning your bird feeder once a month should be sufficient. Gently wash the feeder after soaking it in a 1:9 bleach to water solution. Rinse liberally with water to remove all bleach residues.

Suet feeders usually need to be taken down and cleaned more often than sunflower seed feeders, since suet can leave greasy residue, especially in hot weather. Hummingbird feeders should be regularly cleaned as well.

If you live in an area with distinct seasons, bringing in your bird feeder in winter is a feasible option, but it’s not mandatory. There are many native seed-eating birds that remain in snow-covered areas year-round.

Keeping a feeder stocked throughout the cold winter months will help support their populations. Just be sure to check the seed regularly for contamination from water, snow, and ice!

If you plan on going on vacation and the bird feeder is particularly ornate or flashy, it may be a good idea to put it away until you return.

What is attacking my bird feeder at night?

raccoon eating from bird feeder
Raccoon eating from a backyard bird feeder | image by Wilson Bilkovich via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Chances are that it’s probably not a bird. Small mammals like mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, and even raccoons are known to raid bird feeders at night. Squirrels are usually the most common offender, although

Consider changing the birdseed you offer to a type that squirrels and other rodents don’t like to eat. Millet is a great option that will discourage squirrels but still bring birds to your yard.

You can also make a dedicated ‘squirrel feeding zone’ with foods that will entice them away from the bird feeding areas. Corn cob feeders placed far away from bird feeders are a great option to reduce small mammal attacks on your bird feeder.

Summary

Rest assured that you’re probably not missing out any nighttime feathered visitors to your bird feeder. Since most songbirds are diurnal, the almost all of their feeding activity is between dawn and dusk.

Try watching your feeder at dawn, and you may see some new birds perch and eat in the early morning light!

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About Mary Richardson

Mary is an outdoor enthusiast, nature lover, and amateur birdwatcher that enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.