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Fall bird feeding tips

It’s autumn, and the change in season means changes in the natural foods available to birds. One of the most exciting things about feeding birds in autumn is the chance to attract migrating birds to your yard, so you have the opportunity to see a wider range of species. Migrating birds need thousands of calories to get to their final destination, and your backyard feeders may help them continue their journey. Some people fear that feeding birds in fall will prevent them from migrating, but that does not bear out. It’s primarily daylight levels that affect when birds migrate.

Resident birds in colder climes may build up a layer of fat for winter, and your feeders can help them by offering a reliable source of protein and fat. Birds have a feeding routine, and you’ll be able to keep them coming to your yard by always having that food available.

So, what’s the best mix to bring a variety of birds to your feeders? The answer lies in the use of the word “feeders” — plural, as in, have more than one to accommodate different seeds and thus different kinds of birds.

Migrating birds need foods high in fats and calories. Some of the best foods include:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • White proso millet
  • Peanut butter — Spread some on a pinecone and watch the action!
  • Nyjer
  • Nuts
  • Suet — This is important for its fat content, especially during exceedingly cold periods.
  • Nectar — If you are in an area where you have hummingbirds only during spring and summer, leave your nectar feeders up into the fall, until there are no birds visiting. You could be helping that last lagging hummer on its way. Folks in the West and Northwest can keep their feeders up year round, in order to feed the resident Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Safety is a key factor in bird feeding — you don’t want to do harm. To avoid collisions, place feeders less than five feet — or more than 30 feet — from your windows. Keep birdfeeders clean and well maintained. Keep the area underneath the birdfeeder clear of leaves and other debris so the fallen seed can be quickly cleaned up by ground-feeders. Rake the refuse from under the feeders regularly, to avoid the spread of disease and deter unwanted four-legged visitors. If you have a cat, please don’t allow it to go outside.

Your choice of garden plants can also help birds — plant native shrubs and bushes in layers to provide food and cover. And create a brush pile of sticks, leaves, and other garden cuttings, to make a home for insects, one of birds’ favorite foods.

Finally, be sure to provide clean water — birds need water as much as they need food.

Many of us say that fall is our favorite season of all. Feeding the birds will enhance that enjoyment ten-fold!