Let the Feasting Begin!

Photo by Luke Theodorou

Is fall a great time to start feeding wild birds?

Now that there are some chilly days out there it is a great time to start feeding the wild birds, right? Well the answer is yes, but not for the reason most people think. Tradition has it that you should start feeding the wild birds in the fall. It is assumed that as it gets colder outside the birds need more food and their natural sources are start to become scarce. 

The reality is that fall is a time of plenty for the wild birds that are non-migratory.. So many of the plants that grew during the summer, like the weeds in my garden, are now ripe with seeds. This large harvest of wild seeds is just part of the feast that is now available to the birds. Insects are abundant. While you may not see as many of the more noticeable insects like mosquitoes, gnats and other flying bugs there is still a huge bounty of other small insects for the birds to feast on.

The abundance of natural foods during fall is one of the reasons most people who feed birds notice a dramatic decrease in the number of birds coming to their feeders at this time of year. The decreased activity at bird feeders begins around late September. This slowdown will continue for a while then the bird feeder activity will increase gradually as we move into the winter.

So, if the birds’ natural foods are plentiful now and the birds don’t really need the food we offer, why is the answer “yes” to why we should start feeding in the fall? Think of it like a new store putting out a “Coming Soon” sign. The store is not open yet but you will learn where it is and will come back later. Having the feeders out now will give the birds time to find your feeders before the natural foods are scarce. They will become frequent customers at your feeders as other sources of food get harder to find.

Contributor Richard Cole, is a bird expert, educational presenter, and owner of Birdwatchers Supply Co. in Kennesaw.