What Time Of Day Do Birds Feed? [ANSWERED!]


Maybe you’ve set up a bird feeder in your backyard and wondered: “What time of day do birds feed?” Then you’re likely to have a very curious mind as I do! And so, I decided to do my own research and found a definitive answer! Here’s what I found:

Birds feed the most in the late mornings at around 10 AM. However, birds also feed at other times of the day, with the majority happening in the morning and noontime. Birds feed much less on evenings and nights. The time of day that birds feed the most varies across different seasons and weather conditions.

Now you know that birds feed throughout the day! BUT, you if read on, I’ll describe the various experiments I did to get this conclusion AND cover the factors that affect bird feeding timings in a day. Keep reading!

What Time of Day Do Birds Feed? – Project FeederWatch Data Analysis

What time of day do birds feed? A question I asked myself like you have until I researched for this post. And so I looked for some data available online to analyze.

Thankfully, I discovered Project FeederWatch! It’s a program where thousands of volunteers monitor their backyards for birds from November to April each year, organized by Birds Canada and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I got a checklist dataset from 2016 – 2020.

Here are the results of my analysis:

Bird feeding timings by AM/PM

As seen in the pie chart above, the difference in bird feeding timings between mornings (53.7%) and afternoons (46.3%) is very minimal. Birds feed only 7.6% more in the mornings than in the afternoons. However, one conclusion is very apparent! Birds feed both in the mornings AND in the afternoons!

Now that’s an interesting find that I could not have done myself. HOWEVER, I wanted to delve a little deeper to find out a more exact timing. Here’s what I did next:

What Time of Day Do Birds Feed The Most? – A Community Poll

After discovering that birds feed more during the mornings, I still didn’t know a more specific time birds feed during the day. So I took things further and started a Facebook community poll! So, I asked some fellow birders from the Backyard Birdwatching Facebook group this question: “What time of day do you see birds at your feeders?”.

I then waited for a couple of days before collating the results. Here’s what everyone answered:

Many thanks to those who have helped respond to the poll! I learned a lot about the time of day that birds feed on their feeders. I realized that it can be organized a little neater, so I put it into a nice graph to look at for easy reference:

From the graph above collected from those who participated in the bird feeding poll, we can see that birds feed more in the mornings than during other times of the day.

The highest number of votes for birds feeding in the mornings was the highest at 18, followed by 15 and 13 for the late afternoons and late mornings respectively.

To get a sense of the proportions of bird feeding times in a day, I made a pie chart below:

The majority of birds seen feeding at feeders were in the morning, reaching its peak at 33% in the early mornings (sunrise – 9am). Late afternoons are also peak periods where birds visit feeders to feed at 27% during the day. Birds hardly feed at bird feeders at night at only 5% of the time during a day.

In conclusion, we can see that birds tend to feed more in the early mornings and late afternoons! What an interesting find!

I also found that some backyard birders observed birds at their feeders at night. Although low, this also means that birds do feed at night, but to a lesser extent than during the day!

Cornell FeederWatch Cam Feeding Timings – My Experiment

A screenshot of what the Cornell FeederWatch Cam looks like on YouTube

All that analysis, and I still wasn’t satisfied with the answers I got.

This time, I wanted to take things into my own hands, rather than to rely on aggregated data from other backyard birders. I wanted to look at the feeding times of birds further into the woods.

After thinking about how to collect data effectively, I discovered the Cornell Lab FeederWatch Live Cam at Sapsucker Woods, New York, USA. It’s a live bird feeder cam that is run by the cool folks at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Here’s the YouTube live stream:

Here’s what I decided to do:

  1. Scan through a day’s worth of Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam
  2. Record the number of feeding birds for the first 15 minutes for every hour from 6 am (sunrise) to 8 pm (sunset)
  3. Plot the results here!

And so I recorded counted the birds manually, only by one!

As I didn’t want to sit in front of the computer and count birds the whole day, I tabulated the number of birds on the feeder for the first 15 minutes for each hour!

The Results

Here’s a table of the number of birds that were feeding at different times of a day:

Time of DayTotal Number of Birds Feeding
6 am41
7 am83
8 am91
9 am88
10 am95
11 am44
12 pm65
1 pm80
2 pm70
3 pm56
4 pm64
5 pm47
6 pm32
7 pm14
8 pm18

I made an INTERACTIVE graph so you can see the feeding pattern more closely:

You’ll notice that the graphs above are INTERACTIVE! So do make sure to mouse over the bars and even click on them to filter the data by day period of by the hour.

By observing the graph above, birds do actually feed all day; from sunrise to sunset, starting at 6 am and stopping at 8 pm. Birds feed the most in the late mornings, reaching their peak at 10 am. The feeding trend then decreases by the hour until the late evenings, when birds begin to feed again at a small high again at 4 pm!

Now, this is really cool stuff! I’m actually surprised at how interesting it is to discover such unrecorded insights! I’m really happy to share this with you. The results also make sense, given that after birds wake up, they need to start feeding to keep up with their high metabolism throughout the day.

Do Birds Come To Feeders At Night?

Birds do go to feeders at night. However, birds go to feeders much less often at night than during the day because they are mostly diurnal. From a poll among birders, birds were observed feeding at bird feeders about only 5% of the time.

However, in my personal experiment, I only noticed mice and squirrels frequenting the Cornell FeederWatch Cam at night to grab a late-night snack. No birds were feeding at night. Of course, as I did the experiment for only one day, there could be possibilities of birds feeding on feeders at night that I didn’t manage to detect.

Factors That Affect Bird Feeding Timings

You might be wondering if there are any factors that affect bird feeding timings. Yes, there are factors that will affect their feeding timings! I’ll describe a couple of them:

1. Weather

The weather can affect bird feeding timings. When I was looking through the Cornell FeederWatch bird feeder cam, I realized that during periods of heavier rain downpour, there were fewer birds that went to the feeder to grab a snack. As such, certain feeding timings can have lesser birds feeding than others.

2. Seasonality

Birds tend to feed during periods when there is sunlight so they can see. During the winter months when daylight is shorter, birds feeding timings will change to suit the shorter daylight hours. During the summer months when daylight hours are longer, birds will spend a long time feeding and will have feeding timings that extend to whenever they are able to see during the day.

When I was watching the Cornell FeederWatch Cam, I confirmed that birds only went to feeders when there was enough sunlight for them to be able to see!

Final Thoughts

Now you have learned about the time of day the birds feed the most: early mornings! Birds still feed at other times of the day, including the nighttime, but to a much lesser extent than in the daytime. I hope you have learned something from all my analysis of bird feeding timings and hope you’ve found this article insightful. Thanks for reading and happy birding!

Justin

Justin is a hobbyist birder that hopes to share his birding knowledge with the world. His favorite bird is the Large-tailed Nightjar and he really loves potato chips!

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