About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No birds at the feeders

I have two feeders out all year, three come winter, plus suet, a ground feeder for chipmunks and squirrels (which often is bypassed for the hanging feeders), and a heated water bowl. I deal with the hawks that are around, and chalk it up to nature if they take a bird, and only once had a hawk feast on my roof with a squirrel he nailed in the next yard. So I’m accustomed to birds leaving for a few hours, but coming back. 

However, for the past two days, the majority of the food in the feeders and even the ground have gone untouched. Aside from a couple of chickadees and nuthatches, and 3-4 mourning doves, I’ve seen not one sparrow (where I could easily have 30-40 swarm my yard as soon as they heard the door open at the usual hour). Moreover, no starling, grackle, redwings, cardinals, woodpeckers or blue jays. It’s scary quiet for two days now…in the entire neighborhood.

What could be the cause? We’ve been having temps a little warm for November here in Chicago area, then we had two very cold below freezing nights and high winds, but the birds have tolerated  worse before. Could they have vanished because of too many hawks in my feeding area? It hasn’t stopped the squirrels. I thought perhaps someone was tampering with my food or setting out poison with seeds, but I am not seeing dead birds either. What could be the reasons? It’s so eerie with no song birds in the air or in the trees.
 
Right now birds all over the world are migrating or establishing winter grounds. During this transition time your feeder may be overwhelmed with birds one week and empty the next week. With all the natural seed and fruit around, birds may take note of your feeders but look for other sources just in case. Birds don’t depend on feeders to survive which is good because some people aren’t dependable. They’ll probably return with bad weather when it is difficult to forage.

You can also go through a little check list to eliminate the most obvious reasons for fewer birds at the feeders.

1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed on a piece of paper and see if any oil comes out. On cold days where every meal counts, if your seed has dried out your feeder will be skipped. (Wild Birds Unlimited receives a fresh load of seed each week).

2. Clean your feeders at least once a month. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds. To prevent mold in bad weather use Feeder Fresh™ (a silica grit that absorbs water and humidity, is safe for birds, and made from non-toxic absorbent sand). You can also shelter your feeder from the elements by using something like WBU Weather Guard.
4. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area for a short time.

5. Check with local birding groups to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

I can only imaging the eeriness of having no birds. Where I live in mid-Michigan there is always a constant mix of changing birds. When I walk out to fill the feeders in the morning I hear the Whoosh of birds flying from the trees. Then as I fill the feeders they slowly filter down like falling leaves and hassle me to move quicker. I love it.

I wish you and your birds well, Sarah

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