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.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What a mild winter means for bird watchers

My friend and I wonder where are the birds that used to feed at our feeders. Mine in St. Joseph and hers in Holland. This is the first year that this has happened. I have sighted very few birds this winter in St. Joseph and only in one place do I hear song. My friend shares the same experience. Is there a reason? Thank you for your help in answering our question.

There are several reasons you may not have as many birds this year. With the warmer-than-usual conditions more birds are finding it easier to forage for food naturally. It's estimated that only about 20% of a backyard bird's daily energy intake comes from feeders and because we haven’t had a lot of snowfall in Michigan, there still might be a lot of natural food sources available.

Also this year we've had no major bird irruptions. According to the Finch Forecast the seed crops in the boreal forest for 2015 are average. That means more birds will stay up north this winter with little chance of irruptive migration of birds to Michigan.

Other things to check if you don’t have birds at your feeders:
1. Choose quality food. Birds are remarkably proficient at assessing potential food items for nutritional content and quality. Fresh sunflower seed, peanuts, white proso millet, safflower, Nyjer thistle seed and high quality suets are some of the best choices. Feeders with low-quality foods may have the seed discarded on the ground or just avoided. Wild Birds Unlimited No-mess bird seed is the only blend I use personally. The first ingredient is sunflower seed with the hulls removed, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed.

2. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to smash the seed on a piece of white 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).

3. Clean feeders keep birds healthy. Dirty or moldy feeders 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.

You'll probably notice that the bird activity will increase at the feeders before a storm.

Related Articles:

- Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
- How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
- How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8  
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
- Choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds http://goo.gl/5FpPr7