Anytime of year the birds in our backyards sometimes seem to disappear.
It may not be a usual time for migration, which makes us wonder what happened to them.
But changes happen all year and not just to the weather.
Their activities change constantly throughout the year, as their life cycle dictates.
The key word here though, is change!
When the weather begins to change, the birds respond, which usually means another cycle of their life will begin.
Let's start with the summer season.
All summer birds have been busy building a home and raising their young.
When the fledglings leave the nest, they emulate their parents and begin to visit our feeders.
It is a great time for bird watching, with the increase of visitation that the young create at our feeders.
Our seed feeders and our Hummingbird feeders are very busy when the young birds are out and about.
Then it seems in a few weeks traffic at the feeders seems to slow down. Sometimes with a sudden drop and other times just a little less activity.
We always think of migration as taking place in spring and autumn months. But many birds have already left by mid summer.
The males of many species, like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, have left by late summer. Some leave as early as July and many more following in August.
You may even notice the traffic at your feeders is diminishing during this time.
But as the autumn season arrives, things begin to change more noticeably.
The migrating birds are already on the move, gathering in large groups and passing through.
The adult females are starting their trek in early fall and any remaining males.
Then the youths who are hanging about, stocking up on food and figuring out what it is to be an adult bird, prepare to leave.
Some of the youths who hatched in early summer, may have moved to a new location at some point in the summer.
They are defining their independence and when they leave your feeding station, you will notice a change in activity at your feeders.
Eventually they will leave too, when they have stocked up on body fat and are strong enough to go.
This is the pattern for Hummingbirds, as well as many other songbirds. Although Hummingbirds do not group together to migrate, they make the trip individually.
The birds who do not migrate will undergo a shift as well.
You may notice that you have fewer birds like Goldfinches and Chickadees at your feeders as the fall season progresses.
These species do not migrate on mass as Robins, Hummingbirds and Orioles do.
But many non-migratory birds will group together for the winter. Adults together, sometimes forming, male groups and female groups. The youths will gather and hangout together too. Sound familiar? ;)
And some will just move to a new location, perhaps where they perceive food sources and shelter may be more abundant.
These groups of birds will travel around in winter too. But when they discover a reliable feeding station that offers, oil rich food like, black-oil sunflower, suet, peanuts, they are more likely to stick around.
In the late spring and early summer you may also notice a reduced number of visitors to your feeders. This may be in part due to, adult birds establishing territory, building nests and taking turns sitting on the eggs.
Patience and keeping your backyard feeding area in tip top shape will pay out in the end.
(If you are wondering if you should be taking your feeders down in the autumn? You need to read this first.)
Read on for questions asked by visitors to this site?
From Jill in Lakeland, MN
Where do my birds go in winter?
I have been improving my bird feeding area each year and I have been getting more birds each summer, but they still completely disappear each winter season.
Shouldn't this be the opposite?
I have a thistle sock, black sunflower seed and now a safflower feeder. I have homemade suet and a heated birdbath.
I have many huge red pines that are somewhat stick-like until the top and a variety of vegetation in our woods-like far backyard.
We have lots of grassy areas also.
I have been on the lookout for predators, but I don't see anything.
My mom has almost the same set up, and she is covered in birds! I live in an outer suburban ring area about a ½ mile (as the crow flies) from a large river that does have some open water.
Maybe they are going there?
I also live in Minnesota where it has been extremely cold, so I thought they would really need me this year.
Please give me some advice and thank you!
We just moved to a new house where the past owners did not feed birds. We've had seed and suet balls out for 2 months now and not one bird has come by... is it just a question of waiting or is there something we can do to encourage them?
From Monique Dundas, Ontario, Canada
I hung up a bird feeder at the beginning of November and I have never seen any birds using it yet. How do I attract birds to my feeder?
Where do my birds go in winter?
Do these questions sound familiar?
Where do my birds go in Winter?
Yes, I hear this question and many more like it, all the time!
It is frustrating especially when people traditionally only fed the birds in the winter thinking the wild birds did not need the help in summer.
So you would expect them to be frequent visitors in the winter.
After all the weather is cold requiring more energy to keep warm and food is far more difficult to find. Naturally one would think the birds would desperately need our offerings and come readily.
Let's talk about some of the reasons that prevent this expectation from becoming reality.
And also address why our feeders are sometimes ignored in the shoulder season.
I love using wipes to clean the perches often. They make it so easy.
Another question to ask yourself is...
Don’t give up!
Hope this helps!