"Where have all my birds gone?"
“Where have all my birds gone?” If I had a dollar for every customer that has come to our store telling me that, I would be able to buy all the seed characters I want! So many people find their feeders full of friends one day and the next day there will not be a bird in sight. Hopefully I can explain why your birds left and what you can do to encourage them to come back! Almost always, your birds will return to your feeders. However, there are some things that you should do to encourage their return. Let’s back it up though and explore why they might have left.
Most birds in our yards in Charleston stick around all year. Cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, the whole nine yards. All of these birds stay for the whole year, they just can go through periods of eating less or eating more. We all know that nesting season, fledgling season, and seasonal changes always bring in tons of birds to the feeders. However, they can drop off if the temperature fluctuates a little. I notice on my feeders that right around the high forties to low sixties there are not as many birds around. This is sometimes true, but not always. I encourage you to always try to wait at least 5 days before taking your feeder down altogether. You will also notice a large spike in feeding activity happens right around weather changes. This also happens before some storms.
If it is not the weather that is keeping the birds away, it might be the food that’s deterring them. Sometimes food can get stale. This happens with seed after about three months. That is the risk of buying seed from a large department store because you can never know how long that seed has been sitting around. Seed also gets stale faster if it is out in the feeder. The best way to test if your seed is stale is to replace it. I would mix it to make your newer seed last longer (this also makes sure you do not waste the food). I sprinkle some of the old seed on the ground. Ground feeders (and squirrels/chipmunks) are usually less picky about feed. If you want to preserve your seed longer, throw it in the freezer! Two quick notes: 1) Suet can sometimes get moldy. All you have to do is shave off the moldy section. Do NOT throw it out altogether. 2) Sometimes moths will get into seed. The biggest tell is that there will be webs in the bag of seed. This does not mean that birds will not eat the seed. In fact, the moth larva are just extra protein for the birds! Just move the seed outside of your house, so you do not have a moth infestation.
Another reason why your feeders might have stopped having visitors is because the feeder is not clean. Usually you can tell when your feeders are grimy and gross, but sometimes what keeps the birds away is a little less obvious. You can wash some of your feeders with a water and bleach mixture to disinfect the feeder. Just be sure that they are well washed and dried before putting them back out. Make sure you scrub any piece of your feeder. You just have to make sure all the grit is taken off. Dry all of it off and then you are back in business!
Now that we have explored some of the reasons as to why your feeders are left alone, you can better react and make sure your feeders are in tip top shape for your birds.