Feeding Birds at Summer’s End

What you need to know about feeding the birds at the end of summer.

This article was contributed by Nancy Schofield. Nancy is a wild bird specialist, who attracts the birds at home and helps our customers attract birds by answering their questions and concerns when they come into the store. She has gone out of her way to answer your commonly asked questions about feeding the birds at summer’s end. Way to go, Nancy! You may find your questions are answered in the article below. If not, give us a call at 1-888-879-5095.

It may be hard to imagine how close we are to autumn after this late heat wave in New Hampshire, but a drive around the higher elevations tells a different tale. Leaves are changing, the last profusion of wildflowers lines the roadways, the swamp maples have turned and flocks of geese are beginning their pilgrimage south. The seasons march forward, even if it still feels like summer.

We are gearing up for the busy season

Here in the Duncraft retail store we are gearing up for the busy season. One of the most frequent questions people ask at this time of year is whether or not they should feed the birds when food is abundant in nature.

Should you feed the birds?

The myth prevails that if food is plentiful we shouldn’t feed the birds. Another way to look at this is to realize that the birds never NEED us to feed them. We feed them for all kinds of reasons, but primarily because we enjoy watching them at our feeders.

Here are just a few reasons why you might want to feed birds on these late summer/early autumn days:

  1. Juveniles are active, and like any young children or teens, they need plenty of food!

  2. Birds are migrating through New England. This gives us the opportunity to see some different kinds of birds and offer them hospitality as they pass through!

  3. Birds instinctively know that winter is coming. Just like we start eating more hearty fare, the birds need to build up their fat reserves and supplementing what nature provides by filling your feeders will help.

  4. The birds that are staying around are canvassing their food supply for the winter, and if you want to be on their daily foraging list, now is the time to establish that pattern.

What kind of food should I offer the birds at my feeders?

Extreme Trail Mix, a blend of nutritious seeds, nuts and more to please more of your backyard birds.

This is a nutritious & deliciously dense mix of birds’ favorites, including black oil sunflower seeds.

With the above points in mind, foods that are nutritious and calorically dense are the best options. We suggest black oil sunflower seeds or hulled whole sunflower seeds if you want to avoid debris under your feeder.

Nyjer continues to be a good option, and several mixed blends are particularly suited for this season.

  1. Super Songbird Mix is one of our customers’ favorites because the variety of seed attracts a lot of different birds!

  2. Super No-Waste Blend is another bestseller because it produces no waste and has all of your birds’ favorites, like peanuts, whole sunflower seeds, corn and Nyjer.

Of course suet is a staple of autumn and winter feeding, and it is not just for woodpeckers. Nuts and corn are also a good choice, though if you have a squirrel problem you might find yourself overrun with this “bushy bird!”

Remember to feed hummingbirds, too

Hummingbirds ready to eat from a dish feeder, held by someone. You can do this, too, and have hummingbirds practically eating out of the palm of your hand.Don’t forget that hummingbirds will continue to need nectar until their migration is complete. The rule of thumb is to keep your feeders out for two weeks beyond when it seems all activity has stopped. That allows for weaker birds not quite ready to migrate a last chance to fuel up for their long journey.

Which birds will be staying around?

First of all there are the sparrows. Many customers come in saying they “only” get sparrows at their feeders. I suggest they get to know this abundant bird! By learning to identify them (and it can be a challenge) you will see them in a new way. I have seen Fox, Chipping, White-Throated and Song Sparrows at my feeders, and they all have their own personality.

blue jay

This Blue Jay is resting for a moment before foraging for more food.

Other birds that stay around for the winter include cardinals, Blue Jays, chickadees, juncos, woodpeckers, titmice and even robins. Provide the right feeder and food, and you will have winged guests throughout the season.

Male northern cardinal perched on a branch following a winter storm.

You may even have a male Northern Cardinal as a guest.

What else should I be doing this fall?

Duncraft's popular Three Woodpecker House, where three different kinds of woodpeckers can huddle inside for shelter.This transition month is also a good time for some fall cleaning. Feeders that have weathered the intense sun, heat and humidity are due for a good cleaning before refilling for the fall.

Take down any nesting boxes, clean out old material, and put some wood chips or straw on the bottom, and you may attract small birds looking for shelter from the coming cold nights.

With all of these tips in mind, your backyard can continue to be a haven for our feathered friends!  

Which bird guests are you most looking forward to seeing this fall/winter? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Birding!

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