Feeding Birds In The Fall

Watching birds in the garden in summertime is one of my favorite pastimes, now that fall is here some birds plan their migration to warmer climates and some even make stopovers from far northern regions to the south. So what should we do to accommodate our feathered friends that are passing through along with the native residents as we prepare for winter?

Make sure to clean out feeders from the spring and summer. Make any repairs if needed. Tighten any loose screws or replace hooks. Don’t forget to clean out any grime and old food.

Keep a steady supply of food In the feeders. For the many birds that remain in the region they are preparing for winter. That means they need foods higher in protein and fat. Seed mixes that include hulled peanuts, nyjer, white millet and black oiled sunflower seed are ideal for a wide variety of birds.  Suet cakes are another great food source.  They have a higher in fat content and calorie count than seed. During the winter months birds tend to burn more calories staying warm. According to the national wildlife association ” Suet is considered a high energy food because it consists of fat that has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein.”

In addition to using feeders birds can feed naturally in the garden. During the fall birds don’t need to rely on feeders as their primary food source. They feed on the natural resources like berries, fruits and seeds. My garden is a flutter of bird activity this time of year with a variety of Sparrows, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Finches, just to name a few. They are enjoying a bountiful garden. Plants like Viburnum, American Beautyberry, and Winterberry Holly are filled with berries now. Ornamental grasses are another great food source for their seed heads.  The Finches love to feed on the seed heads from the Echinacea, Lavender and Rudbeckia plants in the garden. One thing I have noticed through the years is that my Bridal Wreath Spirea seems to be a popular source for a variety of Sparrows. They flock to it all season long. It may be the seeds they are feeding on or the shelter it provides.

Providing shelter for birds is equally important as feeding.  Keep feeders in a sheltered location away from potential predators. According to the Humane Society Of The United States, “Place feeders twelve feet from a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can quickly fly twelve feet to reach the safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. ” You can also pile leaves around the base of the tree to provide shelter on the ground as well.

Water is essential for birds. We have experienced a very dry summer in Pennsylvania that has turned into a very dry fall. Keep birdbaths filled with clean water. As the winter and freezing temperatures approach make sure water doesn’t freeze over. Use a birdbath de-icer or heater to prevent water from freezing.

Have your binoculars ready! Fall is a great time for backyard bird watching. You may be surprised with the different species of birds that are migrating through your yard from the north to south this time of year.