Back in the day, most bird enthusiasts never fed seeds to birds during the autumn months.  Nowadays fall bird feeding is quite popular.  However, if you are currently offering sunflower seeds, millet and other delicacies to birds in your backyard, have you ever wondered if this causes more harm than good?

       The truth of the matter is it appears fall bird feeding is more beneficial than harmful.  Some go so far to say that fall feeding discourages birds from migrating.  However, the truth of the matter is it appears fall bird feeding can actually benefit birds.  Here are a few reasons why this is the case.

       Seed eating migrants actually benefit from your efforts.  The reason for this is during migration they deplete the stored fat that fuels their flight south.  An abundant supply of seeds offered at feeders allows them to quickly refuel and continue on to the winter homes.

       An abundant supply of seeds also allows resident birds to build up the fat reserves they need to survive cold weather.  This is especially important during those years when acorns and other seeds hard are hard to come by.

       While it is true, that, for many birds, autumn is a time of plenty–food seems to be everywhere.  However, as the year moves on into December and beyond, these food supplies will be exhausted.  Consequently, the seeds provided by your feeders become increasingly more important to seed-eating birds.

       Finally, feeding birds in the fall provides you with some great wildlife watching opportunities.  Not only do you enjoy tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees and others permanent residents making endless trips to and from you feeders, but you also get to see southbound birds that might have passed over your yard on their way south.  This year, for example, this fall backyard wildlife watchers were able to catch glimpses of rose-breasted grosbeaks.  For many, they only see this bird in the spring.

       The bottom line is, if you keeping your feeding area clean, fall feeding can benefit wild birds.


  1. Thank you. I would like more information about Tree Swallows. They are moving into our area of northern Alabama and one wintered in our garage! She then had babies this summer. I know they eat bayberries in the winter. Would growing these bushes help encourage wintering here, or would that be wasted effort?

  2. Sue,
    What an amazing story! I have never heard of a tree swallow wintering that far north. Tree swallows have only been nesting in Georgia since the 1980s. If you have pictures of the bird overwintering, I am sure the Alabama Ornithological Society (or their equivalent) would love to know about it.

    As for feeding an overwintering bird, aside from wax myrtle berries, I suspect they might be able eat
    small native berries produced by a number of plants. Perhaps they would eat red cedar berries as they small and loved by cedar waxwings, robins, mockingbirds an others.

    Also, live mealworms have been feed to hatchlings when cold weather hindered their parents from findind food. This have been hand-fed to the birds and also offered in small, shallow dishes. In a pinch, tree swallows might us them.

    The bottom line is you are plowing new ground. Whatever you try and find successful would be helpful to others.

    Let me know if the birds overwinter again this year.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.