When do I take down my hummingbird feeder? Do I keep feeding the orioles? Am I helping or hurting migrating birds? Find those answers and more in this article today!
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9 Important Ways You Can Help Migrating Birds This Fall
- Keep your hummingbird feeders up!
- Keep feeders full of quality seed
- Leave your jelly out
- Don’t deadhead your flowers
- Leave the leaves
- Clean out the nest boxes now
- Have anti-window strike decals
- Feed fruit, nuts, or suet
- Leave the lights off
Our amazing feathered friends have a migrating instinct that I will never fully understand. Regardless of how much I’ve read, studied, and learned. They still amaze me.
While they most certainly can migrate without our help, there are things we can do for migrating birds that will help them this fall. (Quite honestly, birds would thrive in this world without the human, haha)
1. Keep your hummingbird feeders up!
Contrary to an old belief, keeping your hummingbird feeders up in the fall WILL NOT keep these little wonders of life from migrating.
If anything, I encourage you strongly to keep them up far after you see your last hummingbird.
Even though you may think you are seeing the same ones every day, it’s more possible that you are having migrators stopping each day before moving on.
By leaving your hummingbird feeders out, you are helping these migrating birds get the instant energy they need for their incredibly long journey.
Their instinct to migrate is in their blood, they will NOT stick around just because you have feeders hanging up. But they WILL appreciate the meal!
Some people have seen a straggling migrating hummingbird after the first snow in the Midwest. So leaving that feeder up was probably much appreciated by those little guys!
Just remember to keep your sugar water fresh, and please stay away from the red stuff! It’s much cheaper and healthier to make your own anyway.
Reminder for the recipe:
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 cups of water
- Stir often
- Take off the burner as it begins to boil
- Cool and feed!
If you have problems with yellow jackets, consider a hummingbird feeder that doesn’t have yellow or white centers over the holes.
I use these, and it really does make a difference over the “regular” ones.
2. Keep feeders full of quality seed
Do you feed the birds in the summer? If you do, then continue feeding.
I feed all summer long because I absolutely love seeing my birds! Especially the migrating birds that are only here to nest for the season.
Don’t worry about them relying on your birdseed to feed babies. It might be an easy meal, but they will still feed the bugs and regular plant nectar because this is their instinct, and they know the babies need the protein.
Just make sure you feel quality seed. This includes:
- Sunflower seeds
- Sunflower hearts
- Safflower seed
- Thistle (Nyger) seed
If you’re in an area where you won’t feed all of the house sparrows, you can feed white millet. White millet attracts a lot of fun birds like Indigo Buntings.
Some migrating birds will appreciate the quick-energy meals while they are on their long journeys.
You’ll never know what you’ll see on your feeders in the fall, it’s always a treat to see a rarity for your area!
3. Leave your jelly out
As long as you aren’t just feeding yellow jackets or house sparrows, leave that jelly out!
Not only are you feeding your resident orioles, but you will be feeding the migrating birds as well.
Many varieties of birds love the jelly, including catbirds, tanagers, grosbeaks, and even warblers!
Imagine my huge surprise when I looked one evening at my jelly feeder only to see a black-throated blue warbler!! This little bird isn’t common here, but he sure appreciated my jelly as he passed through!
Tip: Sometimes, all you have to do is move your jelly feeder a few feet to trick the yellow jackets for a few days.
The birds will see it, but the insects can’t find it at first. Do these every few days to keep some of them away.
4. Don’t deadhead your flowers
I save seeds from my favorite flowers to grow more next year. I also deadhead throughout the growing season to promote more flowers.
But towards the end of the season, I start leaving the flowers on the plants. No “fall clean up” in any of my gardens!
You would be amazed to know how many beneficial insects live off the garden stuff you’d usually clean up, including the dead flower heads.
This, in turn, can be a wonderful meal for migrating birds. Not just the insects are hiding, but the seeds!
I’ve seen so many different kinds of birds (migrating and not) eating seeds from the dried up flowers. They love them!
I’ve even had flocks of birds that normally wouldn’t visit my feeders on those dead flowers I left. It’s so fun.
Please do birds a favor and let your gardens be natural by leaving the spent flowers until late-April!
5. Leave the leaves
This is another part of that “fall clean up” that I strongly encourage everyone NOT to do.
The benefits for your garden, soil, plants, wildlife, and all things nature are tangible. This subject could be its own article!
Seriously, leave the leaves until mid-to-late April. Beneficial insects, caterpillars, and even moths and butterflies will hibernate in them.
This gives the migrating birds a feast as they are traveling on their mega-journey. Not to mention the great benefits of nutrients and protection for your grass and plants.
If you really can’t stand seeing leaves, maybe try to rake them into a few piles in your flower gardens or in the corner of your yard.
The benefits are huge, and the migrating birds will love you for it.
6. Clean out the nest boxes now
If you have nest boxes on your property, you may have already cleaned them out after the last brood.
If not, now is a good time to do it.
Very often, birds will use these boxes for roosting in when the nights get cold. This can include migrating birds who may stop at your place to eat or rest.
It’s fun to see the boxes get used too in the middle of winter by several birds at one time, trying to stay warm!
7. Have anti-window strike decals
I feel that anyone who feeds the birds should have these decals anyway, all year round. Especially if your feeders or any bushes and trees are near your windows.
You’d be surprised how often a bird will fly into a window upon seeing a reflection of a tree in it. It’s very sad and often ends in the death of that poor bird.
Migrating birds are notorious for crashing into windows as they are unfamiliar with the area. These decals can help, even at night. Especially if they are the UV ones. We don’t see them that much, but the decals can save their lives.
I have some cute anti-window strike decals on all of my windows near the feeders, and it’s prevented a huge amount of window strikes. If any hit the window now, it’s pretty light. It makes a difference.
I also have a couple of cute suncatchers in a couple of the windows to keep these birds aware!
8. Feed fruit, nuts, or suet
Fruit is great if you are having trouble with yellow jackets in your jelly. It’s a great high-energy snack for migrating birds and for the beauties that stick around too!
Nuts and suet are also high-energy and will give them the fat content boost they need to make their track to Central or South America.
Most birds fly thousands of miles to get to their winter destinations, often across very large water bodies. They need all the help they can get, and it never hurts to put some of this out during the early fall.
However you do it, the birds will appreciate it!
9. Leave the lights off
A simple way to help migrating birds is to simply keep your outside lights off from dusk to dawn during the fall (and spring!).
Many birds that migrate at night use the moon and the stars to migrate, and all of our unnecessary lights may throw them off course by confusing them.
Really so sad that these little birds are made perfectly to live in this natural world, yet manmade things are a constant threat to their survival.
Sometimes, migrating birds will get “stuck” in a city. They will constantly go in circles from all of the lights, exhausting themselves. It’s heart-breaking to me!
It really is a very easy way to help our beautiful birds! And it helps us too, for not only are we not polluting by using electricity, but we are saving money by turning off needless lights.
There are so many simple and inexpensive things we can do to not only help migrating birds but help wildlife and nature as a whole.
In turn, this helps us and our future generations by keeping earth healthier, all starting from what we do in our yard. This means less pollution, more pollinators to pollinate for the food we eat, and more beauty for us to enjoy.
I don’t know about you, but having a bird and nature-friendly yard sure does bring me a lot of peace. 🙂
I hope this was helpful for you in helping our beautiful migrating birds! Is there anything else you do to help them? Please tell me by commenting below! Thank you!