Sep 8, 2021 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2021

Ask Birdsquatch: When Do Birds Start Migrating?

Fall migration begins at different times for different species. Lincoln's and chipping sparrows are two migratory seed-eating species that begin migrating sometime around September.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

When, exactly, does fall migration start? I stopped offering seeds and suet during the summer months but want to resume in time to power up the birdies as they start their long, southbound journey. I do offer sugar-water throughout the summer and don't take it down until the hummingbirds stop visiting. It's the seeds and suet I'm wondering about. Thanks!

—Beverly B., Baraboo, Wisconsin

Dear Beverly,

It is kind of you to want to help fuel the upcoming journey of our feathered friends. Fall migration begins at different times for different species. Lincoln's and chipping sparrows are two migratory seed-eating species that will be passing through your area in September and October, and that might stop to dine under your feeders. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers will start heading south in late September and might enjoy peanuts, hulled sunflower seeds, mealworms, and suet.

Otherwise, your seed and suet feeders benefit your year-round residents primarily, and not so much migrating birds. For the most part, seedeaters don't migrate—or don't migrate very far. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, doves, cardinals, and most woodpeckers spend the whole year in your neck of the woods.

Dark-eyed juncos begin migrating sometime in September.

Dark-eyed juncos from farther north will turn up in your area in mid-September, but many will pass through to warmer climes. The American robin, so often considered a sign of spring, does head south from its breeding territory in southern Canada and some northern states, such as Wisconsin, but it doesn't travel far. Robins are abundant throughout the year in most of the Lower 48, but it is rare for them to visit bird feeders.

Some of your yard birds do migrate long distances—no doubt there are thrushes, vireos, tanagers, and warblers who have nested in your backyard and neighborhood trees, but those birds rarely visit feeding stations—except, on rare occasion, those offering fruit, mealworms, or suet. In general, long-distance migrants—those that nest in the North and winter in Central or South America—are insecteaters.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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