Sep 18, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2019

Fall Is Upon Us! What to Watch For In Your Backyard.

October is time to watch for migrating birds in your trees and bushes, like this golden-crowned kinglet.
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The first day of fall—the autumnal equinox—is September 23, and where I live (southeastern Ohio), the dog days of summer are beginning to cool down a bit but the leaves haven’t started to change. Those who live farther north may be feeling chilly weather already.

Many bird species are getting restless at this time of the year, not because of the temperature, but because of the decreasing hours of daylight. In fact, some birds are already well on their annual southbound trek. Common nighthawks and orchard orioles left their nesting areas a month ago.

Swallows are flocking and staging, and chimney swifts are swirling into chimneys at dusk to roost. September is the height of warbler and flycatcher migration, and even though these birds are unlikely to visit your feeding station, they might well be stopping by the trees and shrubs in your yard. Keep an eye to the sky to see southbound broad-winged hawks (in the East) or Swainson's hawks (in the West) in late September. Both species migrate in huge, high kettles that can be visible from backyards—for those who are at home during daylight hours and keeping an eye to the sky.

October is time to watch for yellow-rumps, kinglets, and hermit thrushes in your trees and bushes, and to watch for waterfowl migrating overhead. By November, winter-only visitors should be turning up in your yard.

Backyard birds are usually most numerous at your feeders or birdbath, but backyard bird watching can be even more rewarding if you look beyond the feeders.

Here's to a birdiful autumn!



About Dawn Hewitt

Dawn Hewitt is the editor at Watching Backyard Birds and Bird Watcher's Digest. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald-Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.

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  • I live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Four "orphaned" very young poults (males) showed up in my yard about a year ago. They have been around all year. I do feed them cracked corn, and they come when I call for them. I don't want to over- domesticate them, but they do recognize me as the lady that brings food. They roost in the big oak trees at night. I have a 1 acre lot, with many acres of protected forest out back and a pond on the property.Lately, during mating season, I have had hens in the yard too. We've counted as many as 7 Toms and hens, but today, had just the one stalwart (a very robust Tom) that comes everyday. One of the Toms that has recently made an appearance is wounded, limping with an obvious predator wound. The local wildlife experts say he should make a full recovery, and that he's best left to recover with his flock.I find them to be interesting and beautiful birds.
    by Heather Cole, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • You have to put food in it.
    by Truckee Man, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020