More than 300 bird species found in North America during the summer will make their way to Latin America or the Caribbean, some covering distances of nearly 7,000 miles. Parks, backyards and nature refuges across the country will host these winged visitors for the next few weeks as the birds make their way to their fall and winter destinations.
Migration is one of many fascinating parts of bird behavior. Besides the amount of daylight, it appears that age, sex, weather and the availability of food, water and shelter are the major factors in migratory behavior.
While migration is still not completely understood, it appears that some birds orient themselves by the stars on clear nights while others seem to have a built-in magnetic compass. Some birds travel over large bodies of water, and birds commonly lose one fourth to one half of their body weight during such over-water migration.
In order to survive their grueling trip, birds accumulate fat prior to migration. This physiological change helps the birds maintain their energy reserves.
Not only can we enjoy migrating birds as they pass through our area, but we can also play a role in their survival by providing food, water, habitat and/or shelter to help them conserve and replenish their energy supply during their journey.
Foods that are high in fat, such as suet, Bark Butter and a seed blend with lots of sunflower seeds, help birds refuel their energy supply. If you do decide to assist birds with food and water from your backyard bird feeders, then you need to make sure you're doing everything you can to keep them healthy. Maintaining fresh food as well as cleaning feeders frequently can go a long way in keeping them safe and fed.
Below are some tips to make the most of Fall migration...
- Plan your bird-friendly landscaping with migration in mind and opt for flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall to help attract migrating birds.
- Leave berries, fruits and seed-bearing flowers intact, rather than dead-heading, late in fall to provide a refueling stop for migrants. These foods will also be welcome for winter visitors.
- Avoid pruning trees and shrubs in autumn if possible to provide additional shelter for migrating birds. If the pruning is necessary, add the cuttings to a brush pile for easy shelter.
- Attract birds using leaf litter that you leave on your lawn or underneath shrubs to provide a rich foraging area for ground-feeding birds.
- Winterize your bird houses in late fall to convert them to roosting boxes for late season migrants and winter residents.
- Go birding frequently, particularly in areas that cater to fall birds' needs for food and shelter, to note any new arrivals and to enjoy the last glimpse of departing summer species.
By learning what to look for during fall migration, it is easy for every birder to enjoy this rich, productive birding season.