, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 26, 2009

Birds disappearing from feeders? It's a sign of the season

The most frequently asked question the past couple of weeks has been, "Where are all my birds?"

Folks have been complaining that their birds have disappeared from their backyards and feeders. One person stated that this was the first time in 50 years that she had no birds! Most first suspect that it must be the bird seed. Others wondered if it may be from the spraying for mosquitoes in their area.

Certainly the hummingbirds, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks and other summer resident birds are just about all gone now. A few may linger, but most have headed south for warmer climates. Even many of the red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds and grackles have left.

The winter birds have yet to arrive. The juncos, tree sparrows, redpolls, pine siskins, evening grosbeaks and crossbills likely won't be here for another month or more. A few of the migrating sparrows will be coming through soon, but, otherwise, there is a sort of "lull" in the migration as far as feeder birds go.

But what about the year-round residents? The chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches and other birds that are usually here all the time seem to have also disappeared. Where did they go?

Interestingly, I have also received several comments from people that squirrels have disappeared from their yards and feeders! While people go to great lengths (and often great expense) to keep squirrels away, they seem to miss them when they are gone! So what is going on?

This situation occurs almost every year at about this time. My theory is that early autumn is the time of year when the natural supply of seeds and nuts is most abundant. Despite the popular belief that birds only eat from your feeders and are dependent upon them, the birds are actually just using your feeders to supplement what they can find in the wild.

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