backyard birds

Where Have My Backyard Birds Gone?

Tray bird feeder pole mountedWhen I used to run my birdfeeding store, a common question I used to hear in August was “Where Have My Birds Gone?”  In the traditional “dog days of August” it IS not uncommon to see and hear a lot less birds.  Why is this?  Here are some of the main reasons….

  • The nesting season has ended.  So, young birds and their parents have dispersed and left their nesting territories (your yard).
  • Natural food is more plentiful.  As late-summer berries and seeds ripen, birds have many more sources of food.  So, they come to feeders less.
  • Migration has started for some species.   Backyard birds with long migration routes (like swallows and orioles) will start leaving this month in more northern areas of the country as insect populations start to fall off.
  • Midday heat will make birds more inactive.  Summer temperatures will often cause birds to be less active during the middle of the day.  So, they won’t come to feeders as much.
  • Goldfinches may be busy nesting.  These birds are unusual in that they nest in mid to late summer.  So, they may not be nearly as common at feeders as they were in the spring.

Although this may seem sad to see your favorite birds of summer around any more, it’s actually part of nature’s wonderful year-long cycle.  As we transition into fall, you’ll see your regular birds more active foraging for food as days get shorter and the weather cooler.  Some birds like nuthatches and jays will cache food for the winter by hiding it in cracks and crevices in trees or even your house siding!

So, the good news here is that the birds WILL come back.  But, it’s still important to keep feeders and birdbaths filled.  Migrating birds will often take advantage of them for an easy meal or drink as they head southward.  This will provide you with an excellent opportunity to watch for some new and exciting species of birds that may wander through your yard.


Help Your Birds Cool Off In Hot Weather

In much of the continental U.S., it’s been a blistering hot start to summer.  Not only is it hard on people, but also on backyard birds.  Up to a point, birds can deal with high heat (around 92 degrees F).  But, after that, they need to do various things to cool off their rising body temperature.

The most obvious sign a bird is hot is when you see them with their beaks open.  You’ve probably seen this many times in your yard.  Since birds have feathers covering their body and no sweat glands, they must cool off in some other way.  So, they pant like a dog essentially, which moves air across moist areas of their mouths and throat.  The resulting evaporation creates cooling.  Also, birds will use the blood vessels in their legs to dissipate excess heat.

Birds will also ruffle their feathers out to allow heat to escape from around their skin.  Another strategy is they will remain more inactive to conserve moisture and energy, especially during the heat of the day.

One extremely good way you can help your backyard birds is to provide a birdbath for them to cool off in.   Water is much more efficient in transferring heat than air.  In this hot weather birds will both use the water to cool off, but also to replenish moisture in their bodies that they use up to stay cool.

When putting out water, shallower is better.  Most backyard birds won’t bathe in water deeper than inch or inch and a half.  This will mean you’ll probably have to fill the bath more often however due to use by the birds and faster evaporation due to the heat. But, it’s a very good thing to keep the water fresh and clean.  You’ll find more birds will use it.

So, keep lots of water in the yard during this hot weather.  You’ll be amazed at how many birds it will attract!


Welcome to our new Backyard Bird Lover blog!

Here is where I’m going to be posting interesting bird events going on in my yard, tips based on my experience feeding and attracting backyard birds, ideas, news, and opinions related to the backyard bird hobby.  Please check back regularly for updates. 

See you in the backyard!

Kurt Hagemeister



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Cornell Lab of Ornithology