As the days get shorter and cooler, it is time to consider what changes you might want to make in your bird feeding activities. One question we are asked over and over again this time of year is, “When should I take down my hummingbird feeder?”
Last week, I took down six of my hummingbird feeders and left up just two-one in the front yard and one in the back yard. I am still seeing some hummingbird activity in our yard, so my feeders will stay up a bit longer. My personal rule of thumb is to take down my hummingbird feeders by Halloween.
Having said that, I know there are some homeowners who have hummingbirds that winter over. If you find yourself in this situation, it is probably wise to keep at least one small hummingbird feeder up all winter. When we start getting freezing temperatures, it is a good practice to have two feeders filled with nectar. Keep one of these feeders indoors so you can swap it out with the outdoor feeder when it freezes.
Another question we get asked frequently is, “When are the lesser goldfinches going to leave?” This is a question that doesn’t have a clear answer, as their behavior is unpredictable and difficult to forecast.
I consider lesser goldfinches to be a partial migrator. Each winter, a portion of the population migrates and a portion stays. The trick is to know which portion will stay and which will migrate. Truthfully, there really is no way of knowing. You might have goldfinches all winter, or you may not have any.
I have written about this phenomenon before. It is not uncommon to have a customer come into the store and exclaim, “I have so many goldfinches at my feeders-they are eating me out of house and home!” Then, the very next person who walks through the door will lament,
“I don’t have any goldfinches.”
There really is no way of predicting whether your goldfinches will opt to stay or whether they will head south for the winter. Personally, I am filling my finch feeder every day, as I am still experiencing a lot of finch activity at my nyjer feeder.
Another concern that many folks have is if they buy a big bag of nyjer/thistle seed this late in the year, and the finches leave, that the seed will sit in their garage all winter and might not be good next spring. It is important to realize that other
birds eat nyjer seed as well. If you have extra nyjer seed that you want to use up, my suggestion is to mix a small amount of it into your regular bird seed blend each time you fill your feeder until it’s all gone.
Speaking of bird seed, in the fall you will want to make sure the seed blend you are using has enough millet for our winter birds. Millet consumption increases in fall and winter because a lot of ground-feeding birds winter over. White-crowned sparrows, chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos are all examples of ground feeding birds that will be here all winter and prefer millet.
Our annual Wild Bird Photo Contest exhibit is still open to the public. I invite you to come and vote for your favorite pictures. Also, this Saturday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m., we are hosting a special program on the birds of Belize and Guatemala in an effort to plan a trip there. The program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served, and we hope you will come!
Until next week, Happy Birding!