These days one of the main questions being raised by folks that feed birds in their backyards is, “Where are the birds?” We all know that late fall into winter is a great time to feed our feathered neighbors.  However, many of us are currently seeing few winter migrants at our feeders.

       In my case, those only migrants I have seen are one white-throated sparrow, two dark-eyed juncos, and a handful of yellow-rumped warblers.  Other bird enthusiasts have told me similar stories.  They also go on to say, the same thing has been going on for a number of years.

       There are undoubtedly many reasons why we are seeing fewer birds during the late fall and winter than we once did.  For example, weather has a great influence on the timing of the fall migration.  The milder the weather to the north of Georgia, the later migrants seems to arrive in the Peach State. However, there is more to it than that.

       In addition, since seeds produced by wild plants are more abundant now than at any time of the year, many birds prefer to dine on them while they last.   

       There is also a much more significant reason behind what we are seeing.  A study conducted by the National Audubon Society has found that the winter ranges of many birds have dramatically changed.  When the researchers compared data collected on Christmas Bird Counts for the past 90 years, they discovered that the winter ranges of scores of birds have changed in an apparent response to global warming-related changes such as both temperature and precipitation.

       These conclusions are based on an analysis of data concerning 89 different species of birds that were collected in

119 different count circles.  The biologist found birds are wintering further north than ever before. The same is true for woodpeckers, as well as passerines, and others. This trend appears consistent for species that live in forests, grasslands, mixed habitats, shrublands, and other habitat types.

       In other words, if this trend holds true, many of our favorite winter feathered guests will winter far north of Georgia. I suspect we will still see some northern migrants. For example, I was delighted that two dark-eyed juncos are currently feeding in my backyard.  While they were once a common sight around my Middle Georgia home, the birds that arrived this year are the first I have seen in my yard in a number of years. 

Another species that has been affected by these changes is the evening grosbeak.  I have not seen an evening grosbeak in my yard for decades.  However, at one time each winner I banded many of these showy, noisy birds in my backyard.

       I have heard many say that change is good.  However, I think you will agree that this is a change that is definitely far from good.   


  1. This trend has been occuring for a long time, it seems. I talked to a man yesterday who asked me where the birds have gone. The past few years it has seemed that this has become the norm. Your information seems to answer many questions. Here in Fitzgerald I haven’t seen a junco in years. We have been seeing an unknown variety of hummingbird daily. We’re having a pretty good amount of chippers and myrtles. The recent PBS show on woodpeckers noted that red-bellied woodpeckers are being seen as far as Canada which is interesting. Maybe some of this can be attributed to climate changes.

  2. Nudicale,

    I think you are spot on regarding climate change. Couple all of this with habitat loss and you realize why birds are facing an uphill battle. I guess we need to feel blessed with what shows up in our yards.


    • Brooks,

      I wish I could say that I have seen a bird in my yard lately. Bluebirds nest around the house but are rarely seen in the winter.


  3. I live in an Atlanta neighborhood where the use of noisy gas-powered leaf blowers for weekly lawn care is common (e.g., both of my next-door neighbors). Does this also contribute to a reduced number and species of backyard birds?

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