Does Bird Seed Attract Rats? This Research Suggests Yes

by | Apr 5, 2022 | Rodent Control

Out of the corner of your eye, you see a wiggling brown blob on the feeder. Wait, that’s not a bird. It’s a big fat rat.

If you’re wondering if the bird seed is attracting rats, and how to stop it, you’re not alone. We wondered the same thing, so we compiled data from 9 months of rodent services at houses with and without bird feeders.

Are Rats Attracted to Bird Seed?

This can be a controversial topic. So we set out to answer the question whether bird seed attracts rats or not. 

We presented our information to the 2022 Urban Ecology and Conservation Symposium in Portland. Here’s what we found.

At homes with bird and/or squirrel feeders, about every 1 in 4 traps set captured a rat. At homes without bird seed, there appeared to be less rats; only 1 in every 10 traps captured a rat.

Our data suggests rats have larger colonies where there are bird & squirrel feeders.

Click to Download Rats & Bird Feeders .pdf   

Do Rats Eat Bird Seed?

Rats LOVE bird seed. Seeds like sunflower, millet, peanuts and corn are highly nutrient dense foods that rats crave. 

Barnett and Spencer’s (1951) Experiments on the Food Preferences of Wild Rats showed rats have a preference for higher-density nutrient sources, and also for a variety of macro nutrients.

Not only is bird seed high in protein, fat and carbohydrates, but it is full of vitamins and minerals too. This makes bird seed a highly attractive food source for rats.

Does Suet Attract Rats?

Suet refers to a hard visceral fat that comes from cows or sheep. As with any calorie packed food source, suet is highly attractive to rats, mice and invasive squirrels. 

Can Rats Climb Up a Bird Feeder?

It depends on the texture of the material they’re climbing. But yes, both Norway and roof rats have sharp claws and nimble hands & feet that allow them to climb up a bird feeder.

Roof rats are notorious for climbing thin vertical poles like bamboo. And traversing power lines and other hanging wires.

The smoother the texture of the pole your bird feeder hangs from, the better. 

Rats in Bird Feeder

Usually rats are more likely to eat bird & squirrel food dropped on the ground. 

And if you see a rat during the daytime, there could be 15 more nearby (Olkowski, Daar, Olkowski, Common-Sense Pest Control).

So if you see a rat feasting in your bird feeder, you might want to consult a local rat exterminator

There could be a serious gluttonous rat colony breeding nearby.

Rat colonies are intelligent. When colonies grow to a dangerous size, rats can learn not to go in traps.

Will Rats Leave the Garden After Stopping Bird Feeding?

It depends. If rats have NO food and NO place to hide, they’re not safe. They’ll be run over by a car or picked off by a natural predator. 

But beware, they’re masters of scavenging and only need a miniscule amount of food to survive.

The best way to get outdoor rodent control is to create an Integrated Pest Management strategy for rats outdoors.  

Eco-friendly Rat Control. 

Bird Seed Rats Wont Eat

Maybe you’ve heard of chili powder coated bird seeds. The idea being birds don’t have the same taste receptors that cause the burning capsacin feeling in mammals.

DON’T waste your money on bird seed that claims rats won’t eat it. 

Rats often use “repellents” as food, and are happy eating almost anything.

Bird Feeders That Don’t Attract Rats

The best bird feeders that don’t attract rats are ones that limit the rats access to the bird seed.

Tips for bird feeders that don’t attract rats:

  • Install a minimum of 1′ wide diameter bottom tray or screen that keeps bird seed off the ground.
  • Select a feeder with a conical top baffle to prevent rats jumping down from above
  • Use a non-food grade lubricant to grease the pole to prevent rats climbing up the pole.
  • Plant native trees and shrubs to provide birds natural habitat and food without attracting rats.

Portland Rat Control

Whether you decide to feed birds or not, Pest & Pollinator is here for Portland homeowners. We’ll inspect your home and give you peace of mind.

We specialize in providing custom, eco-friendly pest control strategies for rats, ants and much more.

Thank you for supporting Pest & Pollinator LLC.

Pest and Pollinator contact information phone 9712319945 email