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, January 3, 2012

Where are the birds?

We just got back from Missouri. We were staying out in the country with plenty of woods...but we saw no birds. We returned here to southeastern Michigan and no birds here either. We have a variety of  feeders, water, suet, and leftover crumbs...all I have seen is one goldfinch...where are the winter birds? ~ Sent from my iPad

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 mid-Michigan, there still might be a lot of natural food sources available.
Also this year we've had no major bird irruptions. According to Ontario Field Ornithologist Ron Pittaway, the cone crops are excellent and extensive across much of the boreal forest and northeast Canada this year. That means there will be plenty of food for the winter finches and more birds will stay up north this winter with little chance of irruptive migration to mid-Michigan.
Other things to check if you don’t have birds at your feeders:
1. Make sure your seed is fresh. One way to do this is to pinch the seed with your fingernails 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).

2. Make sure there is no mold in the bottom of your feeder. This can be dangerous to the birds and they will avoid your feeder again. 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.

4. Check with local birding groups. Call your local Audubon or go in to a Wild Birds Unlimited to see if you are the only one reporting fewer birds.

You'll probably notice that the bird activity was very high at the feeders before the last storm and I think more birds will visit now that winter may finally be here to stay.

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