We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
1818 N Taylor St
Little Rock, AR 72207
Phone: (501) 666-4210
Fax: (501) 661-0552
Email: Send Message
Mon - Sat: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm
Crisp air, colorful leaves, the scent of a fire in the fireplace wafting from some distant domicile...
Fall is my favorite time of year. Gone are the dog days of summer and the sweltering heat. The bitterness of winter cold is not yet upon us. Thanksgiving, harvest festivals, warm coats, apple and pumpkin pies, and beautiful sunsets... What can I say...I love Fall!
We hear this question a lot this time of year...usually in conjunction with "Is my seed bad?" These queries are not restricted to the fair state of Arkansas. Ask the owner of any bird store in the country and they will tell you Fall is the slowest time of the year. But why is that?
The answer if three-fold. First, you must understand that birds eat only to survive. With few exceptions, birds don't 'bulk up' like some animals do, and they don't eat for pleasure as we humans like to do. So, this time of year they simply do not need as much food as they do at other times of the year. In Spring and Summer, birds are busily preparing nests, laying eggs, and then feeding their young. As a result, their energy expenditure is very high. Likewise, during cold weather, birds expend more energy in keeping warm. Even though many birds utilize a semi-hibernatic state known as torpor to get them through the night, once daylight comes, they 'wake up' and need to eat more to survive the cold. So the first two reasons are related - birds don't need as much energy during the Fall because 1.) nesting activities are finished, and 2.) cold weather has not set in yet.
The third reason is the availability of food resources. During the Fall, natural food sources are abundant through nuts, seeds, berries and insects. While the sense of taste is not well developed in most songbirds, birds do instinctively know that they need multiple food sources in case one food source gives out, and with so much food readily available, traveling to and from feeders may not be necessary.
The simple answer is, when it gets cold out. But, a careful observer may notice birds they don't usually see either showing up for the Fall and Winter, or passing through to points south. Fall is migration time, and so many species are moving to or through the area...Warblers, Brown-Headed and Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Orioles, Goldfinches, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Pine Siskens, and many others. See this website to see what the "migration forecast" looks like! Migration Forecasts Another factor that can bring birds back to feeders sooner is foul weather such as rain or early snow and ice as these can cause the natural food sources to deteriorate in the case of plant matter, or to kill off or cause dormancy in insects.
As always, make sure your feeders are clean and dry with a fresh supply of seed in them. If the birds aren't eating as much, don't fill them as much. It is better to put in less seed more often than run the risk of seed getting wet and spoiling. Add a water feature. As temps drop, natural water sources often freeze over making water sometimes more scarce than in drought where lawn sprinklers and swimming polls help fill the gap where ponds and streams may be dried up. Be sure to change the water regularly to keep it clean and safe, and if a freeze does hit, either use a heater/de-icer or carefully add warm water to the bath to help melt the ice. Refer to our page on Birdbath and Fountain Care for more specifics.
Fall is such a beautiful time of year. True, there may not be as many birds at your feeder, but this just helps us appreciate the ones we see in Winter, Spring and Summer all the more! But, as mentioned, keep your eyes open, you may be treated to some unexpected visitors!
Happy Birding! John