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Bird perches are prominent features in your bird photos just like the birds themselves, sometimes more so! If you have read any of my previous bird photography posts, then you know that the background is the usual deal-breaker between good and excellent image captures. I could argue that the right perch is crucial to getting the perfect bird photograph.

Anyplace that you are photographing birds, there might be hundreds or even thousands of bird perches for them to choose from, and 99.999999% of the time, the birds like the one that you don’t like!

How to Use Bird Perches to Improve Your Bird Photos

While searching for birds, I often stop when I see a nice perch and listen to see if any birds are nearby. When birds are active, a call may bring the birds to you and your bird perches. You can use your voice, or your guide can use their voice, or you can use recordings. You must be careful and abide by park rules for calls. The Audubon Society also has guidelines for using calls on their website.

If you find a birdy hotspot, you can try using your own perch. Bringing and or creating your perches is allowed in some areas. Again be sensitive in parks etc. and never bring non-native plants to a park. Always remove anything that you brought and, of course, don’t cut anything without permission. Disregard those rules for your backyard perches! 

Use a Bird Feeder With Your Perch

The easiest way to attract birds to your perch is to use a feeder. This tip is best for your yard or other private property. You would get a severe talking to and perhaps finger wag a minimum and park banishments and or fines if you were dumb about using feeders. Refer to the Audubon Society link above so you can be schooled in advance.

Busy Backyard feeder

Busy Backyard feeder

Backyard Perch Creation

Place your feeders in a spot that will appeal to the birds. Of course, it should be interesting for your background as well. I always let the birds get accustomed to a feeder for a few days before I fiddle with it to create my “studio.” Once the birds have found my feeder, then I can add a perch.

Back yard Bird Perch Setup

Back yard Bird Perch Setup

Placement of the Perch

Place your perches above the bird feeder(s). Birds will almost always stop someplace higher than the food for one last security check.

It has worked best for me to have feeders that I can raise and lower so that I can vary my background and also sit in my favorite chair while waiting for action. I raise the feeder when done to prevent critters from stealing the birds’ food.

Don’t forget to think about where you will photograph so that you have the best angle for light and the background.

Blue Jay Too Large Perch - Bad!Blue Jay Backyard bird perch - Good!

Appropriate Bird Perches

Wait…what! Is there more? Yes, grasshopper, there are also rules about perches! 

  • The most obvious is that the perch should be pretty or exciting on its merit. 
  • The perch should not be forked, because you don’t want to give the birds a chance to land where you can’t make a photograph. 
  • I prefer to keep my perch about the same width as the photo I want to make. Appropriately sized perches will reduce lens or your body’s movement if birds land out of your field of view.
  • The perch should be size appropriate for the bird species. Hummingbirds on a log look out of place, that is bad.

You’re going to need a lot of perches and or decorations for your photography so that every image you take isn’t on the same perch! You can wrap vines or flowers on your perch, but try to keep it appropriate. Don’t put an azalea on a pine branch! I pick them up all of the time and keep them in a safe place in the garage, and you never know when you might need something new.

Backyard Bird Perches Gallery

Here are a few of the images that I made over the last few days, while I was writing this blog post. One thing that you may notice (I hope!) is all of these images have the same perch made from the groovy, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corkscrew Hazel). It is a perfect foil for most species of songbirds and hummingbirds, but it is soo unusual that people readily see, it’s the same perch.

Show me Your Perches

I hope I inspired to up your birds’ perches game. Leave a comment and send photos of your rigs, I’d love to see what you’ve created!

This is what happens if you don’t add a perch…don’t let this happen to you! Make better images!!!

Don't make bad images add a perch!