Each season of the year brings with it new reasons for feeding our backyard birds. Fall provides its own unique pleasures, while ensuring future enjoyment for the bird watcher. Although there is an abundant supply of natural foods available, such as mature grains, seeds, berries and insects, keeping your feeders full during the autumn months offers several benefits to the birds. In turn, the songbirds provide a great deal of enjoyment for you and your family.
In early fall, your feeder may be frequented by families of late breeding birds, like the American goldfinch. Juvenile birds will often congregate to eat relished food offerings such as nyjer seed mixed with sunflower chips. Entire families visiting backyard stations can feed their begging chicks and the young learn how to hull seed. This is a wonderful sight to behold.
Around mid-fall, birds begin to feed actively in order to build extra stores of body fat needed to help them through the cold, harsh winter months. During this time of preparation, all birds appreciate easy access to a bountiful supply so that valuable energy isn’t spent searching for all the components of their diet. This is the time of year when people see large numbers of backyard birds that they were not able to witness in the summer months, such as nuthatches, chickadees and titmice. Also in later fall, migrating birds may stop at your feeders for a brief visit, which means you may see even more new species in your backyard.
Feeding during the fall is the most effective way to help establish a larger resident population of birds in your vicinity during the winter. Contrary to some beliefs, feeding during this period does not deter birds from migrating, but instead may only hold them in a more northerly segment of their normal range. Migratory birds instinctively will head to more favorable climates. The availability of food affects only the migratory distance. It does not induce a bird to stay in an intolerable climate or in an area that otherwise would not be normal for it to reside in.
It is very helpful to start supplying any winter foods such as high oil content seeds as well as suet during the entire autumn season. This will show your current population and any transient birds that your feeders will provide adequate, high-energy foods to help carry them through the upcoming winter months. Establishing your backyard as a reliable food supply will encourage resident birds to include your area with their feeding range, or as we like to call it, their “dinner circuit”
Be sure to take the opportunity during the pleasant fall months to clean out your feeders and add new ones in the protected areas around your house. In New England, these areas can be found on any side of a building other than North, South being the best choice.
Clean out existing bird houses and add a layer of pine shavings or grass clippings for bedding and insulation. You never know when a shelter can come in handy during a winter storm. Open fronted shelters may also be added for those species that wouldn’t use nest boxes, such as mourning doves or cardinals. If robins decide to stick around this winter, these birds will also take advantage of a free shelter.
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.