Mystery solved: next year, there will be a need for bird seed

If you’ve read my columns or heard my radio programs for a while, you’re going to read or hear something about songbirds. My interest in identifying these little fluttery, colorful creatures was handed down to me by my mom. She loved the birds and taught her offspring all about them and how to identify them.

I have feeders up around the yard, regular feeders and one that offers suet while this time of year, another that provides thistle seed. Add to this the two bird baths I keep operational and I could almost be considered the male version of Miss Jane Hathaway of Beverly Hillbillies fame.

Thus it is with a troubled heart and furrowed brow that I come to you, my readers and listeners, with a dilemma. My birds have left me.

About the time the first days of fall converged over the landscape, sending colorful leaves fluttering to the ground, I noticed that my feeders, loaded with birdseed, were just sitting there untouched. I even had a few seeds starting to sprout because they were being ignored by birds. The birds just seemed to have vanished.

I wondered if it was just my feeders that were being ignored so I went to my favorite social media site, Facebook, and expressed my concern. The comments came quickly from scores of others who feed birds who have experienced the same dearth of songbirds in their yards.

About the time I was noticing the absence of birds in my yard, I saw something else I don’t remember seeing before, at least not of the magnitude as happened this fall. There are several big pines in my yard and there was a constant helicoptering down of pine seeds, at a rate I never saw before.

A walk through the woods also revealed an unusual amount of acorns and other seeds, fruits and nuts of all kinds, giving validation of a bumper crop of natural foods available to wildlife including, I assume, songbirds. My suspicion is that with so much natural foods to eat, the birds are filling their little bellies with these natural offerings.

I sought out experts to see if I could validate my suspicions. Dr. Kim Marie Tolson is an instructor of wildlife studies at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and she believes that an abundance of food is available in the wild which birds apparently prefer over commercial bird food.

“We had an unusually great spring and summer with sufficient rainfall and weather conditions this year for growing natural foods; my guess is the birds are doing their feeding in the woods,” Dr. Tolson said.

Adding credence to this hypothesis was an online site I visited, Stokes Birding Blog, that listed the main reasons no birds are at the feeder.

  1. Abundance of rain, producing a bumper crop of wildlife food.
  2. Lots of wild seeds on composite flowers.
  3. Tons of weed seed.
  4. Lots of berries.
  5. Fruit trees such as crabapple bearing lots of fruit.
  6. Cone seed crop is very heavy.
  7. Warm weather where birds don’t have to eat as much to keep warm.
  8. Mild weather means there are more insects still available.

It’s good to know it’s not just me and my feeders. Others have contacted me with the same questions. One thing is for sure as past history reveals: the birds will be back.

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