While migrant breeding birds exit our area, and birds from farther northern breeding grounds make their way into and through the area, our year-round residents also make a temporary disappearing act of their own.
Sometimes referred to as the fall feeder hiatus, most of us that feed birds year-round will notice a decrease in the number of birds visiting and amount of seed consumed in early fall. The degree may vary somewhat from year to year, but is an annual occurrence. Barring any significant changes in available habitat, the birds will shortly be back at your feeders and availing themselves of your seed and food offerings.
So where do our birds go? They actually don’t travel too far, usually just spend more of their time seeking out natural food sources that are available this time of year. Many native fruits and berries, such as American beautyberry, pokeberry, various vines in the Smilax family and others are available for the next few weeks. Also a number of flowering plants have gone to seed, and many insect species such as moth and butterfly adults and caterpillars, cicadas, dragonflies and numerous other insect species are currently available. Our local birds evolved with these food sources over countless millenia, and like true migratory birds passing through the area take advantage of nature’s bounty this time of year. In fact, except for periods of extreme environmental stress, most birds cannot survive off of our offerings alone. For the most part what we provide is supplemental food, which along with their more natural food preferences helps them to survive the leaner months in our area. As natural habitat areas shrink in the face of human alteration of the landscape, more and more birds seek out our backyard feeding stations to help them meet their nutritional requirements and maintain their presence in our area.
The migration of our tiniest feathered friends, ruby-throated hummingbirds, continues as many of these tiny treasures are still making their way into and through our area. While their numbers are decreasing overall, there will be a fairly steady stream passing through during September, and slowing to a trickle throughout October. After the end of October, a few will remain at assorted locations, and any on site after Nov. 15 may well be planning to spend winter here. So keep your feeders clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water, and let me know of the hummingbird activity in your yard.