Where Have All My Birds Gone?

Over the past few weeks we have consistently been getting the same question: Why are there no birds at my feeders?  Although a drop-off of bird activity at feeders is normal this time of year, this year it has been more extreme than in the past.
The drop-off is not because birds have left the area.  If you go for a hike or even sit for awhile in your yard you will most likely hear the calls of chickadees, blue jays, woodpeckers and more!  Those birds we are so used to seeing at our feeders are still hopping around in the trees and shrubs, but they seem to be avoiding feeders.
Feeders being dirty or seed not being fresh are the usual culprits for when birds are avoiding feeders.  As long as your feeders are clean and have fresh seed, however, this isn’t your problem.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the reason birds haven’t been coming to feeders is because of the overabundance of natural foods out in the environment.
This fall has been unseasonably warm and dry.  We haven’t had any weather cool enough to kill off a large number of insects, and it has been a great year for seed and nut production from trees.  With warblers and other migratory birds already on their way down south, the competition for these foods has decreased, creating a smorgasbord of natural foods for birds that stay here all year long to feast on.  The seeds birds get from feeders is only a small percentage of their total diet.  When natural food is in abundance, their need for supplements to their diet decreases.
Although they may not be feeding much now, your birds are sure to be back!  Once the temperatures begin to cool down, and when we get a little (dare I say it) snow, you will see your feathered friends flocking back to your feeders.  In the meantime, it is important you make sure your feeders are clean, and at least half-way full of fresh seed so birds know they can stop by for a quick snack when needed.  If you missed our feeder cleaning day last month, feel free to drop off your feeders here at the store.  We will clean them and call you when they are ready for pick-up.  Also make sure you have a source of natural water.  We are rolling out our heated birdbaths now and they are a fantastic way to attract birds to your yard in the winter!

20 thoughts on “Where Have All My Birds Gone?”

  1. Thanks Liz, your article was a relief! Have been an avid feeder of birds and small critters (year round) for years, but do not remember a decrease in backyard activity that compares to this year…..My backyard and porches have always provided so much entertainment for my husband and I. I am going to clean all of my feeders and put out only a small amount of fresh seed and suet. Hope my friends return soon! We had a crazy weather pattern this year thru spring, summer and fall, I was thinking this might have affected our visitors, throwing things off for them…..Have our usual hawk visits, stray cats, but no more than any other season……..
    Linda from CNY

  2. Thanks for the good info. I usually have many feeders out, sunflower seeds, thistle and suet. Not a bird in sight. I asked at the hardware store where I buy my seed and they told me the exact thing you mentioned. I’m glad my cat hasn’t wiped out the bird population here on Seneca Lake like my neighbors are telling me. He’s be super cat for sure.

  3. Thank you for the info. Up until two weeks ago, I had all kind of birds, now none at all. We live in the village, but have a wooded area behind us. Hope they come back soon.

  4. We have lived here for 40 years and always had plenty of birds year round, mostly sparrows, chickadees, blue jays, and woodpeckers on our suet feeders. We have multiple bird houses that are always full of birds and a heated bird bath. They always fly out from under our deck when we go outside and they love to sit on the back steps and poop on them. For the last several weeks we haven’t had a bird in site, what could have happened to them? No sign of any predators, I have bought some expensive seed to try, but my seed has always been ok in the past.

  5. It’s just odd. It’s now November 21 in Michigan. One week ago today, all kinds of birds came looking for my birdfeeder. I always put a birdfeeder out in the winter and through the spring. Then I take it down for the summer. When the weather turns cold I put it out again for the winter. Last Saturday, I hadn’t hung it yet when all the birds came—even Woodpeckers. I ran out to the garden shop, bought all kinds of seed and set everything up. It’s been SEVEN DAYS and they’ve not returned. IS THIS NORMAL? Will they ever come back to me or have they surmised that there won’t be seeds for them here?


  7. I live in northwest Connecticut and have been filling my bird feeder at least once a day since early November, . Suddenly, a week ago, the birds stopped coming. Ironically, it was about the time we opened a brand new bag of blackkoil sunflower seeds. I’m worried that perhaps this new seed may have something to do with this bird disappearance. Is there a way we could have this seed tested? Do you think if could be something else? We have fed the winter birds for years and years and never had this issue. We have no cats around, but live in the woods, so there are hawks around always. I’m not even hearing birds chirping.

  8. I cleaned my feeder out with a Clorox wipes the drying it completely putting fresh black oil sunflower seed in the seed was bought in October and is half gone from the 50 lb bag still no birds squirrel s either don’t know why this is happening I need to find out as we get great joy in watching them no it’s not in a different spot or any cats in the yard

  9. No idea where all the birds have been. I don’t even see them around, never mind at my feeders. Washed my feeders put fresh food and still not a single bird! Oct. 2019

  10. I had several pair of cardinals; blue jays, tufted titmice, sparrows,chicadees-all kinds of birds coming to my feeder all summer. Even a pair of young raccoons that I decided to let eat at the feeder.Now they are all gone! I have new neighbors and the coons were first to go,saw a pile of cardinal feathers under the feeder and don’t know if a hawk or the neighbor’s outside cat got it. I keep the feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed. The neighbor told me they “lost” one of their 2 pet chickens to something. I know there used to be foxes on the creek behind my house. I want my birds back and hope it is only coincidental that their disappearance occurred when the neighbors moved in!

  11. I’ve noticed a decline in my song bird population in eastern Pa. My area hasn’t had any chemical spraying, etc. But what I did notice was a local population of either a Coopers Hawk or a Sharp-Skinned hawk pair that took up residence in my back yard. They prey on small birds!!!! The disappearing small birds went into the hawks stomachs. Mystery solved!

  12. I too am getting concerned about the Canary in the coal mine scenario we might have here with global warming. I live in central Minnesota with a field behind me and for twelve years I’ve had hundreds of birds daily devouring the different seed and suet I put out all year round but the last two months I haven’t had a single bird. Scary.

  13. I think Santa must have left the birds food somewhere! Since Christmas we have had very little activity at our feeders! We have always filled them at least twice a week with black oiled sunflower seeds, thistle and suet blocks. I even got new binoculars to watch them with, but haven’t even had opportunity to watch them. Someone told me there could be owls or hawks in the area? Would this keep birds at bay? Feeders are surrounded with abundant cover. Curious to here what other Central PA bird lovers are finding.

  14. Beryl Bashford

    I have discovered that if I put food out at dusk it has gone when I go out about 8 am. . I think perhaps the birds have a feast at daybreak then at this moment in time are busy building nests. .If f already built then the hens are possibly sitting on their eggs now .

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