Feeding Birds and Pollinators – Not Always the Best Together


This is only an anecdotal observation, but a while back I noticed something very intuitive each time I fed birds throughout the spring and summer. For many years, I stopped feeding birds after the young hatched, only to resume feeding when they get ready to migrate back for winter. For a few years, I kept feeding through summer at the insistence of Wild Birds Unlimited. Granted they want to sell the bird food, but they did have interesting reasoning on continuing the feeding all year.


For one, birds only supplement their diet up to 10 to 20 percent at feeders during the summer. In spring during migration, a bird feeder is a welcome food source for birds that traveled a long distance from its wintering grounds and still has a long way to go before reaching its breeding grounds. They say feeding birds does not make them dependent or lazy in searching for food.  I believe this true because birds will look for insects in summer. Also, it is great time for photographs because many birds sport breeding plumage well into summer.


But what I noticed by feeding the birds in spring and summer, it was at the expense of other flying pollinators. It makes sense too. Butterflies, bees and other insects are food for birds in spring and summer and seeing flocks of birds in a garden will surely keep the desirable insects at bay. Birds are busy catching insects to feed the hungry chicks in spring and early summer, so no veteran insect would dare enter a zone filled with predators.

When I design gardens, I separate butterfly gardens from those attracting birds, ie bird baths, houses and feeders. This is always on larger properties, mine being small is divided into front, back and side gardens. To keep the birds and insects separated meant having birds in the back and insects in the front which works rather well for all concerned when bird feeders are up. In summer I still take them down and only feed food my cockatoo discards. When I put his food out in the morning, no insects are in the back garden.


The feeders, nesting trees and bird baths are all in the back gardens. But unfortunately, so is the Trumpet Vine and Monarda. Penstemon and phlox is in both front and back. Hummingbirds like the plants mentioned. And hummingbirds were not happy with the songbird activity. They only come when the baths are quiet and feeders are missing or empty.


From this, I learned to keep hummingbird gardens if requested in a design away from where songbirds gather. Hummingbirds are so territorial. My own garden has proved this.

If you want all wildlife in your gardens, just allow them space to feel comfortable going about their daily activities.


It is now getting to the season birds are spreading their wings and migrating back to where they winter, so time for feeders to be available to aid in their journey.


And the native bees, as long as flowers provide and temperatures stay warm, bees will be busy. You can provide homes for them too. Drill 4″ deep holes with a 3/8″ bit (drill press works the best for consistently deep holes) in soft, untreated wood (6″ side only so as not to go completely through the wood) about 3/4 inch apart in a 4″x 6″x 18″ block for a place for them to hibernate the winter. Put an overhang roof on it to shed water away. Hang it in a south/south-east location 3 feet or greater off the ground. Bees will be happy you did.

Bees that use these houses are very early pollinators like mason bees. You find them and the Digger Bees pollinating our fruit crops. They can pollinate over a thousand blooms per day.


I will be missing in September and hope you will look back through the posts on this blog. In my absence, please have a look at Garden Walks, Public Gardens and Fling Gardens for all the gardens I visit on Garden Walk Garden Talk. I am sure there is plenty you have not seen there either. Or browse more Bees and Friends. Or Birds! Bird Chirps, Links to Popular Bird Posts 2014, Links to popular Bird Posts 2013, Links to Popular Bird Posts 2012, Links to Popular Bird Posts 2011. Enjoy.

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10 Responses to Feeding Birds and Pollinators – Not Always the Best Together

  1. Every time I read your posts I discover something new! Now I understand why i haven’t seen bees for a while. I’ve been feeding birds lately!!!
    As always all your photos are exceptional, but this last one is something else!! 🙂

  2. Pat says:

    You make a very good point.
    These photos are just wonderful.

  3. I do not use bird feeders but suet feeders in winter and early spring. It seems all the critters get along well in the garden but I will keep these great points in mind as I make some changes.

  4. My Heartsong says:

    Excellent photos of the bee and comical bath by the Catbird.Good points about “safe’ gardens.

  5. I never considered that a bird feeder is attracting predators to your yard. I have my bird feeder in front and most of my flowers are in back, so maybe that’s enough separation.

  6. bittster says:

    Great pictures and I agree with your point.
    Also I noticed how angry those little hummers can be!

  7. Debra says:

    Thanks for sharing your observations (and gorgeous photos.) I do feed birds year round but since we are in the shade there isn’t much conflict –if any — with pollinators.

  8. Aquileana says:

    Amazingly beautiful gallery…Great captures!!!
    Thank you very much for sharing!.
    Best wishes to you, always, Aquileana 😛

  9. Outstanding photos! I’ve just started to follow your blog, but will miss it till you return.

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