John Sterling Poole
Prepping Your Yard for Fall!
Now that the leaves are changing, we birders have to change our feeding stations and our yards to make sure that any migrators (those leaving and those coming) are taken care of!
Last week, we talked about who was arriving and who was leaving this area in next few weeks.
The first step to preparing your yard for migrators is to understand their behaviors in this new season. The spring and summer are known for the nesting season and birds can be very territorial due to that. In the fall, however, those territories fall apart and birds usually flock together for safety. Birds in groups can find food faster and avoid predators better, both of which are important for winter survival when there is less food and less cover. Some birds continue to remain alone, but you’ll usually see the birds together. This flocking behavior really takes off once the temperatures drop a little.
In order to draw in these flocks, you can do some pretty simple steps to make your yard a little more catered to the birds’ needs. While we all like to have our lawns and backyards neat and well tended, birds actually appreciate brush and limbs which provide cover from the weather. These piles also provide protection from predators. As a flock, birds appreciate these piles because it provides safety for a group and the birds can rest together in peace.
Lastly, these piles act as a resting spot near your feeders. Birds can tire themselves out flying to and from feeders, so positioning these piles near your feeders can make it a lot easier for birds.
People ask us when or how often they should clean their feeders and the best answer is monthly, but that is a lot of work and not truly necessary. At a minimum, however, people should clean their feeders at the end of winter and at the end of summer. We do this because these times are just before the important birding seasons: nesting season and migration season. Having a clean feeder ensures your birds will remain healthy, it can preserve your food longer when it is in the feeder, and it can make your food move faster through your feeders. All you need to clean your feeders is some dish soap and warm water. Please make sure you wash out all of the soap though! Some people boil water and then soak the metal pieces of feeders. This can be a pretty effective way of killing bacteria, but make sure there aren’t any meltable parts in there!
While you’re cleaning your feeders, cleaning houses is also a good step to take! While these won’t be used for nesting right now, they will be used for protection from cold weather, harsh rain or snow, and predators. Some people like to move their feeders around this time to change things up. If you’re going to move your feeder, now is a good time to do it, but it isn’t a must! You can leave everything up how you have it. I would also recommend not moving houses because the birds know where those are. Moving them could confuse them.
Once the feeders are clean and dry, you should get fresh food in them. Bird seed usually remains fresh for about 2 months after purchase. Birds will eat it after that, but at a slower rate. Eventually though, the seed will be stale and will move slower than molasses. That is assuming the seed was fresh when it was bought. Some larger stores warehouse their bird seed when they receive it for some time. Always look for a date on the bags to be extra sure. Also look for any webbing, very similar to cobwebs or cotton fibers. That web is from moths and moths can take over a bag of bird seed. While the birds will still eat the seed (and it is actually extra protein for them), most people don’t like moths flying all over the house! If you can’t remember how old your seed is, I would buy a new bag. Better to be safe than sorry!
Hopefully some of these tips will help you prepare your yard for your feathered friends! Next week we’ll talk about some other crucial foods and resources for year-round feeding that become even more important in the winter!