Wild Bird Maintenance

Yellow-rumped warbler birdListed below are some downsides to keeping birdfeeders that attract wild birds to your garden. The sight of those cute little birds is enough for many gardeners to want to provide food for them, but first carefully think about the work that is required to maintaining birdfeeders and the possible downsides that come with keeping feeders hanging in your balcony container garden. If you feel you have enough work caring for your container plants, you may find it to be too much extra work to attract wild birds to your balcony garden.


Sweeping. The number one problem with bir feeders in a balcony garden is maintaining a clean floor. You may need to sweep every day in order to keep black oil sunflower seeds from covering your balcony. One option is to purchase “No Mess” birdseed, which is already shelled for the wild birds. The “No Mess” seed means that birds will not leave shells all over the floor. (Read "How to Choose Birdseed" for more information.)

Expense of birdseed. Birdseed can become expensive if you have a lot of wild birds visiting your balcony garden. Large flocks can eat a whole birdfeeder’s worth of seeds every day. If you purchase the high-quality shell-less birdseed (to cut down on the mess), the cost will be even higher.

Refilling feeder every day. If you have a lot of wild birds coming to your birdfeeder, you may need to refill the birdfeeder every day or two. You will also have to make sure that seeds do not get clogged in the feeding holes.

Seeds will begin to grow. Any spilled birdseed that falls into plant containers may start to grow. Check your plants often to make sure that seeds do not sprout and take nutrients from the potting soil.

Poop on the plants. Wild birds are messy eaters, and they will poop wherever they need to. To keep container plants clean from shells and bird poop, do not keep plant containers underneath feeders. If you see birds perching on a specific plant, you may find poop on the plants beneath that one.

Noise when birds fight over food. It’s usually nice to hear the chirps and calls of wild birds on or just beyond the balcony garden, but the more wild birds there are, the more they will fight over a spot at the birdfeeder. The loud, threatening shrieks coming from birds may be disruptive when you are trying to watch a movie or read a book.

Frustrated cats. If you have a pet cat, make sure that she cannot go out on the balcony and attack a wild bird. Unfortunately, cats will become frustrated and perhaps stressed when they see so much prey just beyond their grasp. Cats will make a chattering sound when they realize they can’t get at their prey. Cats may bonk their heads on a glass window, trying to get at the birds. Wild birds will eventually become unafraid of the pouncing creature behind the glass (they will fly away at the cat’s movement but will come right back). Check with your veterinarian if you think the birds outside are stressing your cat to unhealthy levels.

Same birds over and over. You may want to see more wild bird species than the ones that regularly stop by your balcony garden. You may always see house finches and sparrows, but never cardinals or American robins. You can set out birdfeeders for different birds, but your flock may be too intimidating for other birds, or others may just be difficult to attract. If you want many different types of wild birds showing up often, you may be disappointed.

Hummingbird feeders need a lot of maintenance. If you thought filling a tube feeder every other day was an annoying extra chore, think twice about setting out a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbird feeders need the sugar water changed every three days (for sanitary reasons), the sugar water can spill and make the balcony floor sticky, and feeders smell after a while due to the rotting sugar water. Hummingbird feeders are a little extra work, but seeing hummingbirds at your balcony feeder may be worth it.

With all that being said, birdwatching is a wonderful way to augment your balcony container garden. Balcony container gardeners don’t have much “nature” to call their own, but wild birds coming to the garden is a real treat for gardeners residing in an urban or tightly packed suburban areas.

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