I've been hanging these fat balls for a good while and they're intact. Previously I was hanging a feeder filled with seeds (for birds) in front of the window and that was also intact for a while; so I replaced it with these fat balls.

In my previous places of residence that I hung these (not exactly the same spot, but same country, similar areas), they’d barely survive a week. The ravens would destroy them if no other bird.

Here, I hear and see the birds of many species around, chirping on the tree or wandering about (and snacking) on the ground or flying but they don’t seem to eat anything from these feeders. I’ve also thrown a few pieces of bread on the ground/bushes, and the same thing happens. It remains intact for days till I remove them. What could be wrong?

Across the fence in the background it's a sports field with natural grass. During spring I'd see herds of wild fowl grazing there, possibly before starting their migration journey. At nights I see foxes marching around and I’ve also spotted a squirrel once if that matters.

The Irish sea is only a few kilometers away, and that's where the wild fowl would visit from. The area outside the flat is regularly maintained by whomever is in charge, but as far as I am aware there aren't any bird repellants used. There shouldn't be any chemicals either, and even if there is, that should be washed by the frequent rain fall that happens here. The balls are generic bird fat balls but not super new; the mixed seeds were just purchased and were/are very fresh. The feeder is a standard one, made of metal caging and a plastic lid. The metal is obviously painted for rust protection but there's nothing unusual about it, no paint smell or anything like that. Plus the fact that I have used the very same item in other places to feed birds and they've been happily eating from it.

bird feeders

P. S. The photo is taken from inside. One ball is hanging on the tree and the other is hanging outside the window, off the above neighbor’s balcony construction. This window is west-facing with little sun or heat other than the afternoons or sunsets, clouds-permitting!

  • What is the environment like? Water resources, sounds, chemical plants, munitions testing, etc. :-)
    – wallyk
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 2:20
  • 1
    What happens when you toss a high quality seed mix on the ground? "My" birds will eat from the feeder, but they are more enthusiastic eating from the ground. They like to hop around and peck over an area.
    – ab2
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 0:31
  • @Sue done now! :)
    – Neeku
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 21:58
  • Are there any other bird feeders in the area? My first thought is that this looks like a condo or apartment complex and some other person has actively discouraged the birds through the use of poison or other methods. Commented May 10, 2019 at 18:10
  • @JamesJenkins I’m concerned about the same thing but the birds are there. The neighbor next door has a feeder hanging but I don’t know more details. I need to ask them if I ever see them.
    – Neeku
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 19:59

2 Answers 2


After a brief exchange of comments, I think I have enough to take a stab at an answer, with the caveat that this will be mostly informed-guessing on my part. After all, every animal has its persnickety side, and who knows what's going on inside the their heads. I mostly think that some variant of "new-ness" is behind your observations.

  • Chemical Smells: The birds can detect residues from paints, glues, and manufacturing oils for much longer than we humans can, and may be deterred by this. Apparently, this is a bigger factor in nest boxes than in feeders. The good news is these things quickly weather away with rain, wind, sun, and such. You mention your feeder is painted metal with a plastic lid, so it could be this simple. Let a little time go by, the bad smells will fade, and the yummy suet smells will take over. (Source: Face-to-Face conversation with a nature center director.)

  • Learned Behaviors: Birds get used to places where food is available, and need to learn when a new source is added. You need to get that first brave wanderer to come and discover your cache, he'll brag to his friends, and then they'll all come. (Source: Experience. I've had a new feeder up over a month with no hits, then suddenly it was crowded. Each time I refilled it after that, it emptied in a few days.)

  • Timing: It is spring, and the birds' natural food sources are plentiful, and there is less need to seek artificial sources. Plus, if you've ever watched birds at a feeder, there is always that one that picks out a beak-full, tosses it to the ground, repeats a few times, finds the one seed it wants, eats it, and flies away leaving a mess behind. Maybe the tree buds, insects, whatever are just more appetizing at this time of year.

  • I love the description about the pickiness on the seeds! Regarding the paint, it's a standard shop-bought feeder; I haven't painted it, nor it's new, so there's no smell on it. I also notice I forgot to mention that the other fat ball hanging on the tree is in its plastic mesh. The birds are sitting on the tree, so do they really not notice the food? Regarding the chemicals, etc. it rains an awful lot here, so whatever that is should/would be washed. Maybe timing is the issue, not sure, but that can be discovered.
    – Neeku
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 13:50

I suggest adding something for the birds to perch on right next to or on top of the feeder. A few sticks or branches tied to the top of the feeder may be enough.

I had a birding lecture last night and the lecturer said that bird feeders should be surrounded by places to perch. He stated that this more naturally mimics a birds habitat because they usually fly in, perch, feed, perch, feed, etc, before leaving.

I am also curious how much sun the feeder is getting as from the picture it appears to be full sun. What happens if you move the feeder to the shade of the tree/bush that you have circled? If that works, maybe you can mimic that environment where you have the feeder now?

  • There's very little sun in this country! It's west facing, so it gets sun in the afternoon towards the evening, but it's not too sunny. I'll try that. I've also been thinking of hanging another feeder on the other tree (north facing) and see if they'd eat from that one.
    – Neeku
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 17:03

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