Oct 11, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2017

Fall Birding Tips

Birdbaths—especially ones with moving water—are a great way to attract migrating birds.
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Moving water in your birdbath created by a mister or dripper is a fantastic way to attract birds. During spring and fall migration, when species not normally found in your area are passing through, an attractive birdbath can make them stop to bathe or drink. Make sure the basin is clean and in a spot where you can easily observe it throughout the day.

Let your lawn go. It's all about seed heads. Skip the final mowing or two of an area of your yard, and let the grass go to seed. This, too, is natural bird food. Passing buntings, sparrows, and finches will thank you by spending time in your slightly wild yard. Unmowed lawn sections can attract pine siskins, juncos, goldfinches, and several varieties of sparrows.

Leave your leaves. Leaving your fallen leaves alone helps your birds both directly and indirectly. The leaves trap and hold moisture from dew and rain, which helps keep your lawn from drying out. As the leaves break down (mowing over them can hasten this) they add valuable nutrients to the soil. Fallen leaves also attract and are fed upon by insects, which in turn are fed upon by birds such as robins, blackbirds, thrushes, bluebirds, catbirds, thrashers, and more.

Make your windows safe for migrants. Migrating birds get restless and almost hyperactive in the fall. Such activity can have tragic results if one or more of your windows is in a location where flying birds strike the glass. You can use a screen or strips of foil or plastic to break up reflections in the offending windows. The Bird Watcher's Digest Nature Shop sells a FeatherGuard for $9.99 (postage included) that deters birds. Whatever solution you choose, now is a good time to address the reflection of windows birds have hit.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.


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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