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The Binocular Advisor

Birdless Feeder Syndrome

Tufted TitmouseA reader writes: The last couple of weeks, my feeders are birdless! I can't figure out what I'm doing
wrong. I used to have
tons of birds. How can I get them to come back?
--Ruth Brunner, Chicago, IL

Diane's reply:

Hawthorn BerriesThey'll be back, provided you keep the feeders stocked with food. What's happened is that wild food is abundant in fall. There are lots of berries, seeds, and fat insects to eat, and the birds don't much need our feeders right now.

But that's no reason not to set the bird table. In fact, generously stocking our feeders in fall is the way we let the resident birds know they can count on us when the weather gets seriously cold.

Northern CardinalIn fall, when wild food is everywhere, the birds who are going to spend the winter have time to explore their environment for good sources of food. They may spend only a few moments at our feeders now, but they'll remember our place later, when it counts.

In the middle of a big snow, or after an ice storm has sealed away much of their natural food, birds don't have the luxury of exploring. They have to go where they already know they're likely to find something to eat. If we wait until the birds need us, they might not discover our feeders all winter, even though they have plenty of food.

Downy WoodpeckerThat's why it's important to keep those feeders stocked in fall. If the birds know that your yard is worth visiting, they'll remember.

And when that first storm hits, they'll show up. Hungry. Chirpy and chattery. Red and blue and black-and-white and yellow. Fun to look at on a cold winter day.

— Copyright 2007 Diane Porter
— Photos copyright 1999-2007 Michael and Diane Porter

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