When looking at the vast array of bird feeders to choose from you might wonder, what color bird feeder attracts the most birds? There does not seem to be a clear consensus, and the internet seems full of different answers to this question. The answer is, there is no one color of bird feeder that will be most attractive to all birds. Some species have their own preferences, while others don’t. However some research suggests that blue and green feeders are preferable over red or yellow.
Do birds have good color vision?
Humans have fairly good color vision as we have three types of photoreceptors in our eyes. Animals such as dogs only have two, and therefore see less colors on the visible spectrum than we do. Birds have the same three but in greater numbers. This may allow them to see even more variations and intensities of color than we can. Birds also have a fourth photoreceptor that we do not, and it allows them to see ultraviolet light. Researches are still learning about UV vision in birds and how they use this to find food and mates.
What color bird feeder attracts the most birds?
If you look in stores and through catalogues you’ll see that some feeders are colored to match the color of the bird they are targeted for. Yellow for goldfinches, blue for blue birds, orange for orioles etc. Much of that I believe is just marketing, made to appeal more to humans than birds. However two types of feeders who’s colors may in fact help, are red for hummingbirds and orange for orioles. For orioles the idea is simple, they enjoy eating oranges so it would make sense the color orange would at least catch their eye when they are out looking for fruit. Similarly, flowers in the red/purple/pink category often have nectar that hummingbirds are seeking, so it makes sense that a red or brightly colored feeder may get them to come over and investigate.
So that’s orioles and hummingbirds, but what about the majority of backyard feeder birds? I found three studies online where researches attempted to collect data on this topic by putting out feeders of different colors and collecting data on number of bird visits and amount of seed eaten from each feeder.
- One study performed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) found blue was most popular in the summer months followed by silver which was popular all year. They also noted that goldfinches showed a preference for green, while birds like siskins using peanut feeders seemed to prefer red.
- Another study performed by the Morrell Lab at the University of Hull showed silver and green to be the winners, but they noticed that robins particularly liked black and starlings liked blue.
- Two schools boys, George Rabin and Ed Thurlow, designed a colored feeder experiment that won them the 2017 GSK UK young scientist award. They observed and collected data about usage of different colored feeders. Their results showed blue as the winner with green in second. They believe birds have a preference for colors in the high energy wavelengths (purples/greens/blues), whereas colors in the lower energy wavelengths like red and yellow are less popular because they are often used as “warning” colors in nature.
There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming consensus across the board. But it would appear that, at least in these studies, blue and green come out ahead.
Are hummingbirds attracted to the color red?
When it comes to hummingbird feeders, the majority of feeders you find will likely be colored red in some way. Does this really help in attracting hummingbirds? According to the Audubon, the cones in the retinas of hummingbirds eyes contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow and red which may act like filters, heightening their sensitivity to red and yellow colors while muting darker colors like blue. So reds and yellows may appear brightest to them and might catch their attention more easily than a darker colored feeder.
However, they also found that what makes the most difference to the hummingbirds is the nectar itself. Researchers have found that hummingbirds will give priority to whatever flower is the most nectar rich, regardless of color. The red may help a hummingbird notice your feeder, but what will keep them coming back is good quality nectar. Luckily, it’s very easy to make your own!
What will attract birds to my feeders?
Most experts would agree, there are far more important factors to consider when attracting birds to your feeder than color. Consider these important aspects when attracting birds to your feeders;
- Offer their favorite foods, and make sure not to let it sit too long and spoil
- Make sure the feeder is an appropriate height off the ground
- Multiple feeders attract more birds
- Place within 15-50 ft to bushes and trees
- Make sure the type of feeder you use is appropriate for the birds you want to feed
- Add a water feature such as a bath or a fountain
- Keep dogs and cats away from the feeder area
Follow these steps and be patient, it may take some time for birds to show up at your feeders.