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.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Disappearance of usual birds at backyard feeder

I live in South Carolina and have for the past 6 years. I have always had several bird feeders in my backyard and always had many birds to watch and enjoy. This year I have had the usual birds ( cardinals, chickadees finches thrashers, Bluebirds redheaded woodpeckers, sparrows.

I also have a Hummingbird feeder which is very active. All of a sudden, no birds. I am usig the same birdseed, putting out water etc. We can't figure out what could possibly be wrong, At the store where I buy my birdseed I talked to another couple who were also buying birdseed and asked them if they had noticed a decease in the number of birds at their feeders and they said yes and they blamed it on hawks in their area. I have not noticed hawks in my area. I am wodering if you might have an explanation for me. We feel deserted and miss our feathered
Right now birds all over the world are migrating or establishing winter grounds. Young birds like chickadees and titmice find new territories to hook up with other young birds at the end of summer and join local adults to form winter flocks.

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 to your feeders when there is bad weather and it is less efficient 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.
3. Look for predators. Hawks or cats can deter birds from feeding in your area for a short time.

4. Look at the weather. During years where there are more seeds, fruits, nuts and berries produced naturally you'll have less birds than during years where there are droughts and poor crops.

5. Check with local birding groups. You may not be the only one reporting fewer birds. Diseases, viruses, land development, natural disasters may also factor into the drop in bird populations.

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.

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tonyB said...

I live in Vancouver, British Columbia. My story is the same. One day upwards of 60 birds in the yard including three Hummingbirds who spend the majority of their time here. Next day, none. I have been watching the birds in my yard for years and this has never happened. Some species do move on in late Spring and are back in the Fall but this is different. Many of the birds here are year round residents (Sparrows, Chikadees, Hummingbirds) and have never disappeared before. We have several Hawk attacks a year and they will usually be cautions for a few days but not disappear entirely. We had the most violent Hawk attack earlier this year (the Hawk chased a bird around the yard for approximately two minutes of uninterrupted chase. The birds did not immediately disappear following that event but about one week later they all disappeared. I've only seen one Hummingbird in the last two weeks for a 5 second drink at the feeder. A couple of chikadees come to the yard to take one seed and then go. A couple of Bushtits come to the yard for bugs & suet (they usually come in groups of 20 or more). And the Downey Woodpeckers come for suet but not as often and for a shorter time.

I love watching the birds. We cater to them with food, suet, water, baths and a yard full of trees and shrubs on which to perch. They have shown their appreciation by showing up, raising families in our yard and being quite bold and friendly.

I'm quite concerned and depressed about this.

Tony from Vancouver

Ben Lindsey said...

Very similar situation here in Alabama. Almost same scenario exactly as you described. We have a local backyard flock of around 30-40 birds of various species...for the last few weeks, maybe a few mourning doves and that's it...What is going on?