Aug 4, 2021 | Featured Web Article

I've Taken My Feeders Down. Will the Birds Starve?

If you've taken your feeder down and stowed the bird bath away in your garage this summer, consider trying other ways to draw avian visitors to your yard. For example, leave the thistles that attract goldfinches.
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Since late May, in some areas of the East and Midwest, reports of dead and dying birds—either with crusty, diseased eyes, or with apparent neurological problems—skyrocketed. Blue jays, northern cardinals, common grackles, European starlings, American robins, and house sparrows were species hardest hit, especially fledglings. Reports came from Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Washington, D.C., and some adjoining states. Some state wildlife authorities issued advisories, recommending that those who feed birds take down their feeders and empty their birdbaths, wash both with a 10-percent bleach solution, and not offer them again until reports of the problems diminish.

The cause of the ailment is being studied by numerous state and federal wildlife agencies, but is yet unknown. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said the dead birds they checked tested negative for West Nile and avian influenza. But with birds, as with humans, pathogens spread more easily where crowds gather—such as at birdfeeders and in birdbaths. Read more here »

If you live in one of the affected regions and you're an avid bird feeder, as you dismantle your feeding station, you might wonder if the birds will survive without the sustenance you provide. Rest assured they won't starve. Birds have evolved over the eons as incredibly adaptive, mobile creatures. Unless a bird is sick or debilitated, it can use its wings (or legs) to range far and wide in search of food. During the summer months natural food sources such as weed and flower seeds, berries, and insects are abundant.

If you've taken your feeder down and stowed the bird bath away in your garage, consider trying other ways to draw avian visitors to your yard. Birds prefer landscapes that are a bit wild and unkempt. Can you find a spot to grow food and shelter for the birds—plants that provide natural habitat for them? Can you find a place for a perennial vine? An evergreen? A berry-producing bush? Offering the birds abundant natural food sources and safe places to hide will give them more reasons to frequent your yard.



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  • 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
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021