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Birdhouse vs. Bird Feeder: Which One Should You Get?

Birdhouse vs. Bird Feeder: Which One Should You Get?

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If you’re a bird watcher, the easiest way to get to know the birds of your area is by attracting them to your backyard.

The best way to do that is by setting up a birdhouse or a bird feeder in your backyard. You’ve probably heard about these two structures, but do you know the difference between them?

In our birdhouse vs. bird feeder guide, you’ll get to know about each of them and decide which one to hang in your backyard.

Let’s begin!

About Birdhouses

As the name suggests, a birdhouse, or a nesting box, is a small house for backyard birds that’s usually made out of wood.

Its main function is to provide a safe nesting location for mating birds in the breeding season. It’s also a place for the parent birds to raise their hatchlings.

Cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers, wrens, and owls, are the ones that usually occupy birdhouses. These types of birds like to nest in protected cavities and chambers, such as holes in trees.

Why Is Setting up a Birdhouse Important?

There are several wonderful reasons why setting up a birdhouse is important. Here are the most common ones:

Pleasant Experience

If you’re a lover of nature, having a pair of birds nesting and raising their hatchlings in your backyard is an amazing experience.

They’ll be like your pets, except you can’t take them inside. Besides, they pretty much can take care of themselves.

It’s just lovely to observe the parents caring for their hatchlings and watch them grow.

Help With Habitat Loss Problem

Many bird populations are in serious decline due to habitat loss. This problem is causing many birds to shift their locations. Unfortunately, it’s also accompanied by food scarcity.

The inevitable result of habitat loss is the extension of birds, such as the extinction of the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Birds can’t fight this threat on their own. So, it’s our time to step in and help.

Setting up birdhouses in our backyards is a simple way to offset the threat of habitat loss. This way you provide birds with houses that resemble their natural habitat.

Control Pests Naturally

By the way, it’s not all about the bird’s benefits. Birdhouses benefit you as well.

The birds that will occupy your birdhouse might help with pest control. Instead of using harsh chemicals to control pest infestations, the backyard birds can easily help you with that.

They’ll be always on top of their job filling their tummies with pests. It’s an exchange process. Provide the birds with shelter, they’ll eat your pest problems away.

Attract Pollinators

A birdhouse can attract a couple of nectar-feeding birds. These types of birds are also pollinators and will help your flowering plants reproduce and grow healthy.

As you can see, setting up a birdhouse is a simple, helpful gesture that will benefit you, the birds, and the environment.

What Do Birds Look For in a Birdhouse?

You can put up a nice-looking birdhouse and still, birds won’t use it. But why?

There are several factors that you need to consider when putting up a birdhouse in your backyard:


Location is the number one thing you need to consider when setting up a birdhouse in your backyard. It’s important to put it up at least five feet above the ground.

If it’s lower than that, no birds will occupy it as it’ll be considered not safe enough. It shouldn’t be too high as well.

The best thing you can do is to search for common backyard birds in your area and see at what height they like to nest. A website like NestWatch can help you a lot with this step.

Another thing regarding location is to place the birdhouse in an area with less foot traffic. Birds usually like to have their privacy during the mating season.

Who can blame? Don’t we all need privacy!

If you have several birdhouses, it’s recommended to place them at least 25 feet apart. This is because some backyard birds are highly territorial.

The last thing regarding location is to place the birdhouse in a shaded area, especially if it gets too hot where you live. It’s a nice thing to do to provide the birds with more comfort.

Aged, Natural Wood

The main goal of birdhouses is to provide a shelter for birds that resembles their natural habitat. That’s why it’s important to put up a birdhouse that’s made out of wood.

Most birds prefer aged or weathered wood. In this case, the wood is soft and provides just the right texture for the young to grab and hold on it.

So, stay away from varnished or painted birdhouses. Aged, unvarnished pine, cedar, or redwood are way better in this case.

Besides, paint and wood stains can be toxic for birds. It’s better to be safe and leave the wood in its natural state. That’s what birds love anyways.

Appropriate Entry Hole Size

Not all birds are of the same size. You need to know the size of the birds you’re targeting to attract to your birdhouse.

If you’re trying to provide a house for smaller birds like wrens and songbirds, choose a birdhouse with a smaller entry hole.

On the other hand, if you’re targeting bigger birds like American Kestrels, a bigger entry hole is required.

Nesting Materials

Just like we need furniture inside our houses, birds need furniture as well, but of a different type.

Birds like to line their nests with things like moss, feathers, animal hair, grass, shredded bark, twigs, and pine needles.

You can either put the lining for them or store these materials in a sheltered location near the birdhouse. This way they can decorate their birdhouse to their liking.

About Bird Feeders

Bird feeders or a backyard cater to a whole different purpose. They’re small structures that you fill with seeds, suet, or other bird food for birds to feed on.

So, you’re not putting it up for shelter or protection, but for providing a source of food.

Why Is Setting up a Bird Feeder Important?

Bird feeding is a rewarding hobby for you and the environment. Here’s why:

Provide Food for Migrant Birds

Many birds migrate hundreds of miles every season. It’s important to refill their energy levels with food during their long journey.

Providing food for those little migrants is a nice gesture from you. It’s also a way to attract migratory birds that you won’t normally see in your area except during migration season.

Help When Food Is Scarce

Bird feeding might be just a hobby for you. But for many birds, bird feeders can be their main source of food.

In the winter season, birds’ main food sources become scarce. This includes natural food sources like insects, berries, and seeds.

So, remember that during the colder months many birds are relying on your generosity.

Provide Extra Nutrition

Birds don’t visit bird feeders only during winter, but also all year round. Food that is often used in bird feeders like suet, nuts, and seeds provide birds with necessary nutrients and fats. Birds may not find these types of food easily in the wild.

Attract Backyard Birds

Bird feeders are the number one way to attract backyard birds to your yard. For bird watchers, you can get those pictures that you love and try to identify the birds that visit those feeders.

As for beginner bird watchers, putting up a bird feeder is a great way to get to know the birds of your area.

Allow You to Enjoy Nature

One of the ways to explore and enjoy nature is watching birds having their meal in your backyard.

Imagine having a cup of coffee while watching different bird species enjoying your generosity. What a peaceful, stress-free moment!

Just the sight of a beautiful bird can make your day better. On top of all that, you get to hear different bird calls and it’s especially a pleasant experience if you have songbird visitors.

Factors to Consider Before Putting up a Bird Feeder

Several factors you need to consider first before putting up a bird feeder in your backyard:

1 – Location

To make sure that your bird feeder is accessible for birds, it’s important to put it up in a suitable location.

It’s highly recommended to hang your bird feeder in a shaded area to prevent the bird food from going bad quickly. This is especially if you’re filling it with suet as it can melt in direct sunlight.

Besides, it’s a nice thing to provide birds with shade while they eat their meal.

Your bird feeder won’t be accessible for birds if it’s near a thorny bush or a bird repellent plant.

Unlike birdhouses, you can place multiple bird feeders next to each other. Most birds become sociable at bird feeders.

2 – Choosing the Right Feeder Type

There are many bird feeder types on the market these days. It’s recommended to hang several different types because some birds are likely to favor one feeder over another.

The main types of bird feeders include:

  • Suet feeder
  • Tube feeder
  • Platform or tray feeder
  • House or hopper feeder
  • Nyjer feeder
  • Sugar water feeder
  • Oriole fruit feeder

Before purchasing any feeder, it’s best to do your research about what species of birds are most likely to visit your backyard. Then, you can choose the type of feeder accordingly.

Again NestWatch will provide you with the information you need about the birds in your area.

Birdhouse vs. Bird Feeder

So, which one should you put up in your backyard? This depends on three factors: your aim, maintenance, and cost.

1 – Your Aim

If your goal is to have a breeding pair nesting in your backyard, then you should hang a birdhouse. This way you can learn more about how a bird family functions and cares for each other.

However, if you want to have different species of birds visiting your backyard frequently for food, then a bird feeder it is.

This way you can attract not one species, but multiple species to your backyard and enjoy watching them having their meal.

2 – Maintenance

Maintenance here includes cleaning and making sure that the birdhouse or feeder is in good shape.

A birdhouse only requires cleaning at the end of the season or when the hatchlings finally leave the house.

All you need to do then is to open up the birdhouse and empty all the lining material and clean it with some soap and water.

The best part is that birdhouses become more desirable to birds when they become aged and withered. So, you don’t really need to renew it unless it’s completely damaged.

As for bird feeders, they require frequent cleaning and refilling. If you don’t want to get in all that trouble, maybe just get a birdhouse.

3 – Cost

There are many options for birdhouses and bird feeders on the market at different price points. So, you can choose what best suits your budget.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to refill your feeder frequently with your chosen bird food. Usually, bird food isn’t pricey. However, if that doesn’t suit you, then consider skipping on buying a bird feeder.

Can You Put a Birdhouse by a Bird Feeder?

No, you can put a birdhouse by a bird feeder. As we mentioned earlier, nesting pairs like to have their privacy in their nest.

Having a bird feeder next to a birdhouse will invade the nesting pair’s privacy. In this case, birds will not use your birdhouse as they’ll consider it unsafe for their young.

It’s recommended to place a birdhouse at least 20 feet apart from a bird feeder.

Final Thoughts

Beginner bird watchers frequently get confused between birdhouses and bird feeders. It’s a rewarding experience whether you’re going to put up a bird house or a bird feeder in your backyard.

The information provided in this article will help you know the difference between the two structures and decide on which would be best for you to put up in your backyard.


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