8 ways to help birds during the fall migration

Female scarlet tanager in a bird bath during fall migration By Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock

Fall is a time for change. As you enjoy the temperatures getting cooler and the leaves turning colour, you might also come across birds migrating to their winter homes. Adult birds are often accompanied by their young offspring as they gear up for the long migration south. Depending on where you cottage, you will see different species; in most cases, there are things you can do to your cottage property—or at home—to help your avian friends.

1. Offer food in several locations

Before and during migration, it is important that birds have all the energy they need. Consider setting up a bird feeder in close proximity to the bushes or trees in your yard. Scattering seeds on the ground is also helpful for birds that are reluctant to come to the feeders. Read more on how to safely feed birds here.

2.  Provide water

Like any animal, birds need water throughout the year. Fall is a mixture of hot and cold days, and it is critical for birds to have water on both. Having a birdbath is the best option. Moving water in your birdbath also helps to attract new birds—they’re drawn to the ripples and the dripping sound. You can achieve this with a dripping hose, or a small pump that recirculates the water. Make sure the water in the birdbath is clean and fresh.

3. Provide shelter

Shelters give birds a chance to rest and regain their energy, along with offering security. Putting a nestbox in your backyard is a good way of doing this. If you already have one, don’t forget to clean it and replace the old nest with new dried plant material.

4. Let your (native plant) garden grow

Don’t clean your garden too much. Birds can benefit from seedheads and tall grass, as it serves as natural bird food. Tall grass can also provide some shelter to these birds. Leaf litter—that is, letting it stay on the ground instead of raking it up—may also be helpful. It’ll attract insects, which in turn, become prey for the birds. (Keep in mind though, too much garden clutter can also attract pests to your cottage.)

5. Plant more bushes

Bushes provide birds with a place to nest and shelter. Some common species for attracting birds are hawthorn, holly, ash berry, blackberry, and rosehip. They also provide nutritious berries in autumn. Here are three easy ways to make your garden more bird- and wildlife-friendly.

6. Protect migrating birds from your cat

This is important any time of year. Birds can be attracted to your backyard by food and water, but migrating birds may not be aware of the potential dangers lurking there. Keep your cat indoors. Here’s why.

7. Protect them from your windows

If your windows are in a place where there’s a risk of birds hitting them, take some precautions in order to make them safer for your little feathered friends. Migrant birds tend to get hyperactive in the fall. This can often result in tragedies if windows (or clear glass deck railings) aren’t made bird-safe, by, for example, a window film. Here are some tips on how to stop birds from hitting the windows.

8. Upgrade your bird feeders before winter

Birds can benefit from feeding and protection in all seasons. Winter can be a harsh season for birds that don’t migrate. In order to help them, consider setting out multiple bird feeders or upgrading to a large-capacity feeder. If you already have one, inspect it to make sure it is clean and fit to be used for another season. Check out these other tips for feeding birds all winter.

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