Birds Disappearing from Feeder in the Fall

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I have received several emails lately from folks asking why the birds have disappeared from their feeder. Well, I could be a wise guy and say “How am I supposed to know?” because I often don’t know where they live, where the bird feeder is located, what kind of seeds they were feeding or any other information that might be helpful. But I can speculate as to some causes. Since there were birds at the feeder, and now you have none, here are things to consider:

File:A busy birdfeeder (7355182424).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
  1. The feeder is empty or the seed has gone bad; both would be pretty obvious.
  2. A cat or hawk has moved into the local neighborhood.
  3. Does your new dog bark a lot?
  4. It may be that squirrels or rats are now partaking in the cornucopia of seeds and scaring the birds off.
  5. This time of year, early fall, most flowers have gone to seed, leaving abundant food for seed-eating birds. The seeds birds get from feeders is only a small percentage of their total diet.  When natural food is in abundance, their need for supplements to their diet decreases.
  6. If the weather is mild, birds don’t need to visit feeders for a concentrated source of food.
  7. Mild weather also means that insects and other invertebrates like worms and spiders will be available as a source of protein.
  8. It’s migration time. Even if it is the permanent residents that are disappearing, it could be because there is a lot of movement in the bird world at this time, and the permanent residents are disturbed by the newcomers.
  9. Perhaps nearby water sources have dried up. Birds need a source of water nearby.
  10. Maybe your neighbor put up a bird feeder that is more attractive than yours. I know, hard to believe, but it is possible. Or maybe they just put better quality seed in it. So if you have been a cheapskate, maybe it is time to splurge on some good quality seed. Or at least a variety. Here’s a chart of food preferences for typical bird feeder birds.
  11. Has the local environment changed? Are you or your neighbor building a pool or adding a second story to your house? Do the new neighbors have three noisy kids under the age of five? Activity and noise will cause birds to leave.
  12. Finally, birds will be birds. If none of the above reasons apply, just attribute it to the birds’ personalities.
Free picture: evening, grosbeak, bird, feeder
Evening Grosbeak

However, never fear, they will be back. Probably. But understand that the climate is changing and habitats are disappearing. So some bird species are moving farther north as the climate warms and some species are declining in numbers as suitable habitat shrinks. You may be interested in joining Cornell University’s Project  Feeder Watch and submit your feeder sightings for science.

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