An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Where Are All The Birds?

11-15-17 feeder 049A7843

Even though signs as well as sightings of active bears are plentiful, and black-oiled sunflower seeds are an open invitation for them to visit and potentially become “nuisance” bears, many devoted bird-lovers have already hung out feeders in hopes of luring feathered friends closer to their home. Throughout northern New England so few birds have been attracted to these feeders that they have remained full, some not having been refilled since September. Our usual fall and winter visitors appear to have all but vanished, and concern has been growing amongst those who feed birds.

Those familiar with bird feeding habits know that in the fall, when seeds are abundant, feeder visits by resident birds typically slow down. However, this year, at least anecdotally, appears to be extreme in this regard. Warm weather extending into November certainly has lessened birds’ food requirements. But having sunflower seeds sprout in your feeder before the need to replenish them arrives is unusual, if not alarming.

Dr. Pam Hunt, Senior Biologist in Avian Conservation at New Hampshire Audubon, recently shared some of her personal research with the birding world (UV- Birders). Hunt has conducted a weekly, 10 km-long, bird survey near Concord, NH for the past 13 years. In addressing the current concern over a lack of feeder birds, she extracted the data she had accumulated on 12 common birds (Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, American Goldfinch) over the last 13 falls, focusing on the period between Oct 1 and Nov 15. After extensive analysis, Hunt concluded that there has not been a dramatic decline in the number of birds this year, relative to the averages of the past 13 years. One cannot argue with scientific evidence (except for, perhaps, #45), but it does seem mighty quiet on the western (northeastern?) front this year.

 

 

58 responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick

    A welcome and reassuring post. Thank you.

    November 15, 2017 at 7:12 am

  2. Marie

    I was concerned. Will they return soon?

    November 15, 2017 at 7:16 am

    • Some reports of this starting to happen. Fingers crossed.

      November 15, 2017 at 7:41 am

  3. Ellen

    One of the many things I love about your posts is that you so often address my questions! I often get a dip in numbers of bird visitors this time of year, but this Fall definitely is quieter than usual. I did spot a downy woodpecker at the feeder yesterday, so that is encouraging!

    November 15, 2017 at 7:20 am

  4. Bob Morse

    Lots of all those “common” birds visiting our eastern Massachusetts feeders. The juncos started coming just a few days ago; can snow be far behind?

    November 15, 2017 at 7:24 am

  5. Diane

    My feeders come down at night and go up in the early morning. Just this AM I was wondering what happened to all the good birds. I have jays, doves and some woodpeckers but notice there are lots more house sparrows at almost every feeder than last year. In the afternoon I will see a few nuthatches but it seems even the chickadee has vanished. Saw the first junco last week.

    November 15, 2017 at 7:35 am

    • Elizabeth Hawes

      this is the first time in 50 years here that we’ve had house sparrows…they even nested on top of a window ledge! Also, two of the three times bears have come have been in the daytiime.

      November 15, 2017 at 8:03 am

  6. Alice Pratt

    Welcome to come and watch lots of birds, here 😁 (south of Boston). Lately: a Cardinal pair, Juncos, Nuthatch, Chickadees, Downy, Red-bellied on the suet, Blue Jays, Mourning dove, I have small tray feeders & a suction cupped to the window feeder with dried mealworms & seed. I hand-out food every day, all year…maybe that keeps my feathered friends around. Squirrels and a chipmunk enjoy the food as well.

    November 15, 2017 at 7:50 am

  7. Linda

    I leave any flowers with intact seed heads out in the garden (I do remove the dead leaves.) I often drive home and see flocks of birds fly up from the flowers and dive into bushes. They are small, but can’t see what they are (wrens, finches?). I makes me smile to see them! So I never noticed a lack of birds.

    November 15, 2017 at 7:55 am

    • Diane

      They are the same birds I was talking about above, house sparrows. Invasive species.

      November 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    • Dorian Gossy

      I am in a fairly remote part of the ADKs & have indeed noticed a big reduction in the number of feeder birds in the yard. We see do see chickadees as usual, however, also with juncos to some extent. I even heard a robin in the yard before that single digit freeze within the last week. Most numerous are blue jays. One goldfinch showed up who hasn’t stuck around. An occasional hairy woodpecker female. Please let us know, Mary, if other info comes up about this. Many thanks for your work as always!

      November 15, 2017 at 8:20 am

    • Dorian Gossy

      To Linda—I think the birds you’re seeing diving into bushes are probably juncos. Look for the dark head & shoulders & especially the flash of white outer tail coverts when they fly!

      November 15, 2017 at 8:24 am

  8. Connie Yoiungstrom

    Several friends have commented on how few birds there are . Since I’m the local “bird lady” I am glad to get your post on this and will pass it on . We have a tremendous natural seed and fruit crop in Vermont this fall. Surely that has kept the feeder birds busy.

    November 15, 2017 at 7:56 am

  9. Elizabeth Hawes

    Although the seed has gone down slowly, we have had all the birds from the survey here in the Hudson Valley at our feeders (or under them) except the white-throated sparrow…so far. Luckily, no bears, either!

    November 15, 2017 at 8:00 am

  10. JAMES LUDWIG

    I beg to differ with Dr. Hunt’s findings. I have observed the exact opposite. Here in Tunbridge VT I am at a 30 year low for this fall’s song bird population at my oil sunflower seed feeder.

    November 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    • Cindy

      I don’t think Dr Hunt’s numbers are from feeders. The birds are out there – just staying in the woods as this has been an incredible year for nuts, seeds, fruits, and berries. Feeders are welcome when need be, I’m sure, but also a more dangerous place for birds. Birds of Prey, illnesses passed around, old seed, etc.

      November 16, 2017 at 5:27 am

  11. Alice Pratt

    …..and Tufted Titmice, too.

    November 15, 2017 at 8:18 am

  12. Dianne Wright

    Yes, it just seems concerning!

    Have a good Thanksgiving . I’m thinking of you and your family.

    And thank you for your Wonderful posts, I love them! 🙏

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    November 15, 2017 at 8:35 am

  13. Barry Avery

    True here in North Granby CT too. I put out the feeder Sunday and have seen a lot fewer than I expect.

    November 15, 2017 at 8:36 am

  14. Dudley Smith

    Mary: There is a noticeable lack of birds at our Hanover sunflower chips feeder. Hairy and Downey woodpeckers are however plentiful on our suet. Nice beaver picture from Kay and Peter’s mill pond. Dudley

    _____

    From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 7:08 AM To: djsmith37@comcast.net Subject: [New post] Where Are All The Birds?

    Mary Holland posted: ” Even though signs as well as sightings of active bears are plentiful, and black-oiled sunflower seeds are an open invitation for them to visit and potentially become “nuisance” bears, many devoted bird-lovers have already hung out feeders in hopes of lu”

    November 15, 2017 at 8:40 am

  15. Stephanie Olmsted

    what is #45?

    November 15, 2017 at 8:58 am

    • Many people who cannot bring themselves to utter the name of our President (count me among them) refer to him as #45 (he’s our 45th President).

      November 15, 2017 at 10:26 am

  16. Bill On The Hill...

    Something I believe worth considering is the bumper crop of food for all woodland creatures this year, which quite possibly is keeping them in the bush, ( woods ) rather than seeking out other food sources, i.e., birdfeeders.
    Here in the highlands of Corinth, VT we had a bumper crop of apples, black raspberries, choke cherries, etc., I can’t say with authority, but I suspect the surrounding forests produced excellent mast foods as well, i.e., acorns, beechnuts, etc…
    Great post as always Mary,
    Bill Farr…

    November 15, 2017 at 9:01 am

    • Thanks, Bill. Yes, we’re overflowing with acorns and apparently other hard mast this year!

      November 15, 2017 at 10:25 am

    • RJ Ferrara

      Thank you. Reassuring!

      November 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm

  17. peggythebaker

    The Cornell Labs accept submissions for backyard bird counts. Check out https://feederwatch.org/

    November 15, 2017 at 9:15 am

  18. Here in Nova Scotia we were all urged to remove our feeders over the summer due to an horrific bird disease. After the first frosts it was OK to put the feeders back up and I’m happy to report the birds have returned.

    November 15, 2017 at 9:24 am

  19. Mary E Quinn

    What does “(except for, perhaps, #45)” mean?

    November 15, 2017 at 9:26 am

    • Many people who cannot bring themselves to utter the name of our President (count me among them) refer to him as #45 (he’s our 45th President).

      November 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

      • Tom Zuba

        Try harder to leave politics out of this once great place to go to and enjoy all good posts about Nature. I for one will find another place to go to for my enjoyment if this narrow minded BS continues.
        TZ.

        November 27, 2017 at 9:48 am

  20. Mary, THANK YOU! My neighbors and I up here in North Haverhill have been talking for some weeks now about the fact that the birds had vanished from our feeders. (Well, the bears, too. I have had one single nocturnal visit, rather than the usual every-night foray.) We speculated that some of the birds’ apparent scarcity was due to the presence of a goshawk for about 10 days. It roamed around for several miles, attacking chickens and doves. But in the last few days I have seen doves again and the blue jays are ever-present at the feeders. Chickadees have made some very fast visits. Anyway, you post was reassuring and I’ll share it with the neighbors!

    Maria

    November 15, 2017 at 9:40 am

  21. Catherine

    I add my thanks to the above entry as I have been wondering where the birds are. I have not had any visitors in nearly two months which is very unusual and I have been feeding birds for two decades here in Alton, NH. However, this morning there were chickadees visiting! My heart rose! Welcome back little ones! I look forward to the other fine freathered friends returning.

    I am curious to know if anyone else has had an unusually large gathering of crows. After Tropical Storm Philippe blew through recently, a lot of pine cones were blown down. I have counted nearly 100 crows at the end of my driveway and across the street I’m guessing eating pine nuts. I have seen these large gatherings in two other locations as well. Any thoughts Mary and others?

    November 15, 2017 at 9:54 am

    • Not large gatherings, Catherine, but after the windstorm I had many more visits from 6 or 7 crows at a time to my lawns. I had thousands and thousands of pine cones (I started picking them up to use as kindling–yes I’m crazy) and the crows may have been attracted by them or other things spread all over the lawn by the wind. Anyway, you’re correct that I saw more crow activity than usual. And today the robins are back eating my crabapples!

      November 17, 2017 at 8:29 am

  22. Carolyn Parrott

    This post is so timely as just yesterday I was talking to a fellow feeder of birds–i.e., a human bird feeder–about this lack of visitors here in the greater Concord, NH, area, I keep feeders out all year long as they are suspended on a pulley system 15′ above the ground. Suet continues to be visited by not only the hairy and downy woodpeckers, but red-bellied as well, though somewhat less, I think. And I do see an occasional chickadee or titmouse. Even the squirrels are eschewing the seeds!

    November 15, 2017 at 10:32 am

  23. Jon Pringle

    This is very true at our home in Essex, VT. Woodpeckers are at the suet cake daily and plentiful. Our sunflower feeder has seen very light activity and as read in this timely post I had the same question.

    November 15, 2017 at 10:46 am

  24. Susanne

    One thing I liked about your posting was it was pretty much the one place with no politics….oh well.

    November 15, 2017 at 11:17 am

    • Sorry, I do try my best to avoid it!

      November 15, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    • Nora Paley

      How we live is political. This includes: missing birds, allowing brilliant interesting elephants to be slaughtered for trophies, losing wilderness. The old slogan: the personal is political is apt.

      November 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm

  25. karen

    THNX for all the info/comments. I’ve been concerned all summer that climate change has struck. There are always titmice and a chickadee or two, but none of my usual buddies. Finally some of the regulars have returned but only 1 or 2 of each, plus a crowd of mourning doves. I’m a Project Feederwatcher which doesn’t start till 2nd week in Nov, but I watch and feed all year, taking the feeders in at night. One day in April I had a momma bear with 4 cubs, and 2 days in a row a confused, worried yearling who sat 3 feet away from me under my feeders. I felt blessed and lucky. I believe he thought i was his momma who had just sent him out to live in the real world. He followed me to my back door when I decided to go in. I wondered if he was planning to come in with me. 🙂 Karen gould

    November 15, 2017 at 11:47 am

  26. Wrightweig

    Thx c u soon💘

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    November 15, 2017 at 12:22 pm

  27. Stephanie

    Thank you for the (humorous) update. I’ve been worried that things were worse than usual – and have missed my cardinal pair!

    November 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm

  28. Alison

    The cold temps have finally arrived here on Long Island, NY. I put out the bird feeder and ground seed for our friends. We have 3 blue jays in town all summer long. They were first to come eat. We have a few cardinals, lots of sparrows and juncos. The female woodpecker is here, along with the mourning doves. I just saw a robin this morning, I don’t think I see them at this time of year. Now the black birds – how I wish they would not visit. Squirrels have their own feeder – way in the back of the garden. There doesn’t seem to be as many birds as in the past. Another new friend is a monarch butterfly, still making the rounds.

    November 15, 2017 at 1:38 pm

  29. Put up ours here in MA after the big chill this weekend and while it took a few days, we’re seeing the usual amount of visitors. The chickadees and titmice are always the first to find them, followed by the woodpeckers, nuthatches, goldfinch and cardinals.

    November 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm

  30. Kathie Fiveash

    I have not put up feeders yet, but I walk in the woods every day, and I am not seeing or hearing chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, hairy woodpeckers (a few downys), red bellied woodpeckers, kinglets, finches, sparrows. I did see a little flock of bluebirds in a field today. But the woods are eerily quiet.

    November 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm

  31. RJ Ferrara

    We have 2 sets of feeders (suburban MD) and they are humming all day long but they are all “the usual suspects” i.e. many cardinals, many downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, a few Carolina wrens & house finches, blue jays … normal backyard birds around here. What I’m not seeing are migrants, and have only seen one or 2 hawks. Only a few white throated sparrows & first junco yesterday. But we’re getting mourning doves & house sparrows by the bucketful! Glad to hear that the migrants are likely to be feeding on natural sources. Hope so! The MD birder pages are seeing lots of species at parks etc. but apparently they are arriving later than usual. Also only a very few red-bellied or hairy woodpeckers and they are usually plentiful. And — we did have a small flock of robins earlier this week.

    November 15, 2017 at 6:42 pm

  32. Allison Teague

    This is not scientifically verified without a link to the data for inspection. What would comfort me is a link to the “scientific” data, so that I can comfort myself by not taking anyone else’s word for what I see as a bird crisis as a result of changing climate, and poisons being dumped on us daily from overhead. So… Mary, could you please post a link to the data so I could comfort myself by reading your research? I would greatly appreciate it. Our fall last year was not that different than this one… why such a drastic change in the appearance of the smaller birds, almost all of which you list? The bigger birds are at the feeder.

    November 16, 2017 at 8:41 am

    • If you go to https://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=VTBIRD , Allison, and click on November 2017 you will find Pam’s post about her survey (why I mentioned VTBIRD in my post, sorry it wasn’t a direct link).

      November 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

    • Tom Zuba

      For anyone interested in this topic on missing birds. to give you all some idea of what is really going on with the bird issue, go to roth@desertsun.com This is only one site that can give you scientific data on this issue. Also ( 760 ) 778-4622 You can also Goggle Scientific Data on cooking of Birds at Solar Sites.

      November 16, 2017 at 10:54 am

  33. Nora Paley

    I have been so sad! The birds are missing from my back yard wetland! Even the Chickadees are missing. I wrote to Cornell Ornithology inquiring about this in vain (what could they really say?). I wondered whether there might be some poison algae bloom. Reading your column today I see it is even larger than I thought!
    I’d been wondering whether it was my new roof or the water, but you say it’s everywhere! I have lived in this house on this wetlands for 11 years and have been happy because it was teeming with wildlife. No mosquitos I thought because of the excellent ecology. Now this deafening quiet and lack of movement is very painful.

    November 16, 2017 at 9:02 am

  34. Tom Zuba

    Look up the studies done by several Universities on how many birds are actually cooked by the temperatures that exist over all the Solar Panels in all the once beautiful fields that were once homes for our little creatures. It’s very scary. I have been feeding birds for over 50 years and have noticed a very obvious decline in our little visitors to our many feeders. The amount of Microwave signals in our atmosphere is also a concern from all the dishes on our homes, cell phones and internet systems.

    November 16, 2017 at 9:12 am

    • Alice Pratt

      And I read about migratory birds crashing into highrises & being found dead on the pavement…numbers are staggering 😟😟☹️😬

      November 16, 2017 at 4:50 pm

  35. Diane Newton

    Yes, I have had my feeder out and have had very few visitors. I have too been wondering about this.

    Diane >

    November 16, 2017 at 11:53 am

  36. Treah Pichette

    I never get birds very early here, but I have seen what I would consider “normal” activity here….(except for goldfinches although I’ve heard a few).

    November 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm

  37. we are refilling our feeders every few days and we have big feeders.. we have had blue jays, titmice, all kinds of finches, downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, sparrows, mourning doves plus a few chipmunks.. lots of activity at our house

    November 16, 2017 at 7:23 pm

  38. Decisions about our bird populations can’t be based on one person’s recorded observations. I have been birding for 57 years and maintaining feeders for that long. I have not seen more than 4 chickadees at a time since Spring and not one cardinal in 4 months. I am also a Naturalist and don’t see where this year’s crop of seeds and berries from our wild flowers and shrubs is any different than usual. It is very alarming that this trend of not seeing any birds in general, except blue-jays and crows, is all over the northeast. Northeast PA

    November 18, 2017 at 10:23 am

  39. Carol Leonard

    I’ve been wondering the same thing. Bluejays have been here all summer (DownEast Maine) but saw the regular “gang” of Mourning Doves only just this morning! I blame EVERYTHING on #45.

    November 21, 2017 at 10:01 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s