Strategies For Feeding Your Local Bird Populations This Autumn

Now is the perfect time to clean and stock feeders, and to stock up on birdseed.

September 11, 2015
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bird eating a sunflower

Fall is the last chance some of your bird friends get to stock up on their favorite snacks. As soon as winter hits, and snow starts covering everything, it gets a lot harder for them for forage for food, and they tend to need to rely on a small stockpile of seeds and berries in their nests. Here's what you'll need to get your bird feeders ready to help this fall season.

Related: 7 Ways You Can Help Native Wild Birds In Your Own Backyard

We hope you enjoy the products we're recommending as much as we do! Just so you know, Organic Life may get a share of sales from the links on this page.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

bird on bird feeder
Peter Dziewior / EyeEm/getty

At The Feeders

Repair any feeders that need a makeover. You may need to pound in a loose nail or replace a cracked bottom piece.

Put out several suet feeders so all your resident birds get a turn. A single woodpecker can monopolize a suet feeder for most of the day.

Related: 8 Ways To Keep Squirrels Away From Your Bird Feeders

Stock a very low tray feeder (1 foot or less above the ground) with cracked corn for mourning doves, who gather in flocks to feed in fall.


Keep the hummingbird and other nectar feeders up as long as you dare; until freezing temperatures threaten; more than one late migrant has been saved by a forgotten feeder.

Keep the birdbath brimming. Fresh water is vital year-round.

bird eating a sunflower

In The Garden

There are plenty of ways to provide bird treats in your garden in the fall. Try some of these ideas.

Keep an eye on any berries or fruits in your yard. They're prime foods for birds that may alight during migration. The Virginia creeper that sprawls through my garden as a groundcover offers its midnight blue berries in early fall, right when vireos and orioles are passing through. The vines of fox grapes winding among the treetops attract later migrants like rose-breasted grosbeaks and tanagers.


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Listen for the quiet twitters and sharp chip! notes that betray the presence of song sparrows, white-throats, and other hard-to-see native sparrows around your yard. In the fall, a bounty of ripening seeds on garden plants, grasses, and weeds brings flocks of these LBBs (that's "little brown bird" in birder talk) to backyards. They may stop at abundant seed patches for a morning or a whole week, but they're small, quick moving, and wary of people, so you'll hear them more often than you'll see them.

Related: New Studies Show Bird Watching Is Good For Your Brain

Check garden centers and nurseries for viburnums, bayberries, and other shrubs that are already full of berries. Cart them home carefully so as not to dislodge the fruit, pop them into the garden, and the birds will reap the benefits immediately. One September I brought home three deciduous hollies; while I was planting the first one, cedar waxwings descended on the shrubs that were still in the pickup truck.

If you love a bargain, check the end-of-season sales at nurseries and garden centers. Trees and shrubs—usually the biggest investment you'll make when creating a bird-friendly yard—are often available at half price. Although the selection may not be as big as it is during the spring, the savings are hard to beat!