October is the peak of natural food sources for wild birds.

Feeder activity is down! Where are my birds?

‘Where are my birds?”

You’re not alone in asking this question! In the past few days, we’ve had numerous phone calls & questions in the store about a significant slowdown in feeder activity. Everyone is seeing fewer birds at their feeders right now.

Don’t worry! It’s normal for this time of year and temporary. Traffic at your feeder is likely to start picking up as we get further into Autumn.

There are several factors as to why your feeders aren’t attracting as many birds recently, and it’s all to do with timing and how seasonal events overlap.

Why this is normal:

  • October brings a bounty of natural food sources.

    It’s harvest time! We’ve entered the peak of Nature’s food production. Plants are going to seed and berries are still abundant. Insects have not yet gone dormant. Your birds are very happily eating food provided by natural habitats and the native plants and insects in your garden.This year, because we’ve had a recent long stretch of warm, dry weather, it’s possible there is even more food than usual.

  • Broods have dispersed.

    All those juvenile birds are now winging their way alone and feeding independently. If you’re missing their squeaky voices and enthusiasm at your feeders, you’re not alone!

  • Migration.

    Some of our favorite birds have quietly left the area, heading south to their winter homes. It’s always sad to see them go, but this year we are feeling even more bereft.

What’s NOT normal:

  • We’re alarmed and saddened by recent news on bird populations.

The recent report on the decline of bird populations since 1970 has us all paying closer attention to the quantity and variety of birds we’re seeing.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t factor in the affects of reading about this report by North America’s leading scientists and ornithologists in “Birds are Vanishing from North America” The New York Times article that first got our attention.

One month later, we’re still struggling to process the vast tragedy documented in this report and the stark reality that our birds are in “a full-blown crisis” (See Audubon.com press release, Audubon Declares a Bird Emergency ).

Any reassurance from knowing that a feeder slowdown is normal for this time of year is overshadowed by grief for the billions of birds that have disappeared in our lifetime, on our watch… This is profound.

When there are suddenly fewer birds at our feeders, in the back of our minds maybe we’re all thinking the same thing: ‘What if they don’t come back?’. Immediately followed by ‘What can we do to help them?’.

Finding the good news

If there’s good news to be found, it’s that so many birds are finding natural food right now and our micro-habitats are making a difference.

And it’s also good news that so many people are paying close attention and sharing their concern.

But maybe the best news is that there are things we can each do to address the biggest threats to wild birds existence: habitat loss, free-roaming domestic cats, pesticides and windows.

What we can each do—right now

In our homes and businesses

In our yards

We can help support birds by creating and maintaining micro-habitats in our yards, which includes:

  • CRITICAL: Stopping the use of all pesticides!!!

    Native insects are a huge food source for birds and especially for their babies. Food for nestlings must stop disappearing.

  • Food  

    Maximizing every bird’s feeding opportunity by providing fresh high calorie nutrition. Quality seed and clean feeders matter!

  • Water

    Keeping fresh, unfrozen water accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.

  • Shelter

    Planting native trees and shrubs for protective cover and providing secure nesting opportunities with thoughtfully placed bird houses for the cavity nesters.

  • Stop doing so much yard work!

    Leaving our leaves as protective cover, using them as mulch, leaving them to compost and eventually, to become topsoil. Not deadheading your flower garden—the Goldfinches would love to do that for you!

For more info about starting a micro-habitat for wild birds, see our resource pages: Food + Water + Shelter = Habitat

See Gardening for Wildlife by the National Wildlife Foundation.

Support the American Bird Conservancy‘s fight to protect our birds from insecticides and other threats. See their website here for three direct actions we can take right now.

What we can keep doing

In 50 years, will our grandchildren be asking us “Where are all the birds?”.

The big picture is overwhelming, but it’s easier to feel empowered when you consider this:

Even the smallest individual micro-habitat is making a difference. But, with our collective efforts, there’s unlimited potential.

If you have your habitat established already, your next action is as simple as influencing just one other person to start a backyard habitat. You could be starting a ripple effect that goes for miles and miles!

We know these ripples can happen because it’s already begun. There is a growing patchwork of habitats beginning to connect neighborhoods, counties, regions and states; serving to secure migratory flyways and as corridors for wildlife to return.

  • Expanding and taking our habitats to the next level
  • Encouraging our friends and neighbors to start habitats.
  • Inspiring and involving our children and grandchildren.

The future normal.

In 50 years, let’s hope our great-grandchildren get an updated report that confirms an amazing resurgence in the wild bird population, within every species. Every effort we can make now, no matter how small, is a step in that direction.

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