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 am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021