Bringing Fall Migration to Your Backyard

Tips to Maximize Backyard Visitors During Fall Migration

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I was beginning to lament my Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s departure to fall migration when out of nowhere, she stopped by the nectar feeder today.

It was a moment of rejoicing, and I was so glad the nectar feeders are still out for our current backyard hummingbirds and any others that might stop over during their long flights south.

First Birds to Leave for Fall Migration

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are one of the first birds to leave with their first-class tickets stamped for their winter home destination in Mexico.

Hummingbirds migrate during the daylight hours, so I wondered if I was watching this beautiful bird fuel up with a pre-flight meal, or maybe she’ll stick around a few more days.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are one of the first birds to leave to fall migration

Their arrival is so eagerly anticipated, and their departure is so dreaded.

When she does leave, this bird will rest at night and continue to her destination at daylight.

Like a protective parent, I can only wish her a safe journey and hope the wildfires out west don’t affect her travels.

But right now, she’s still here, and I will enjoy having her as a guest at my nectar feeder as long as possible.

Fall Migration is a Birder’s Delight 

Instead of talking about losing birds to migration, let’s reflect on all the beautiful birds we’ll see during fall migration and the new visitors we’ll have through the winter months.

This is a spectacular time of the year all birdwatchers live for, so grab your binoculars and see flocks of amazing high-flying travelers.

Billions of birds travel thousands of miles across oceans and continents during migration, so we never know what birds we might see and where they might stop for a rest.

It might even be your feeder.

Like the holidays when we ready our homes to entertain friends and family, now is the time to get your backyard ready for our feathered friends.

Some are making a brief visit, and others are staying for the winter.

Here are a few tips to attract more birds to your backyard bird Airbnb so they’ll thrive during their stay.

Fall Migration Tip 1 – Provide Running Water

Migrating birds can hear the sound of running water in a birdbath or pond from a distance.

The sound of water draws them to the bath for a drink and a quick dip.

Most migratory birds visiting birdbaths with running water eat insects and include beautiful bird species like warblers, vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, and thrashers.

Consider Adding Running Water to Birdbaths

It’s easier than you think to create running water in your backyard.

Install an electric mister or bubbler in single pool birdbaths.

A small pump moves water in a multiple-tiered birdbath, causing the water to make a splashing noise as it recirculates from top to bottom.

You can find them at bird supply stores or on Amazon.

Broad-winged Hawks migrate in large flocks or “kettles”

Fall Migration Tip 2 – Keep Nectar Feeders Out

Resist the urge and don’t take down nectar feeders once hummingbirds and orioles begin leaving.

There are vast numbers of hummingbirds and orioles spending the summer farther north, and as they migrate through your area, they’ll recharge themselves at the feeders.

Remember that juvenile hummingbirds are the last to abandon nesting grounds and feed on nectar long after the adults have flown south.

Fall Migration Tip 3 – Clean Out Empty Birdhouses

Now is the time to clean out and make necessary repairs to birdhouses in preparation for hosting birds that roost during fall and winter.

Old nests attract insects and parasites, so remove them before winter residents move in.

Bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, and winter wrens take up residence in birdhouses to keep warm and safe.

Fall Migration Tip 4 – Make Brush Piles for Roosting and Protection

Gather your fall clippings of branches and twigs and pile them in the corner of your yard to create a cover for birds.

Many birds that prefer habitat on the ground, like the Dark-eyed Juncos, Tree Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows, use brush piles for roosting at night and protection from predators.

Don’t discard fallen evergreen trees. Place them along the border of your yard to provide more cover that will last throughout the winter.

Fall Migration Tip 5 – Plant Evergreens for Cover

Evergreens are the best natural cover for birds in fall and winter.

Plant evergreens near feeders and birdbaths to attract migrants and provide cover for birds after deciduous trees lose their leaves.

Evergreens are great natural cover for birds in fall and winter

Fall Migration Tip 6 – Double the Number of Feeders in Your Yard

Fall is a fabulous time to double the number and types of feeders you put out for the birds.

Beginning with the first crisp fall days, the bird’s food consumption will increase and continue to grow as the average daily temperatures drop.

To attract a variety of bird species to your yard, provide various seed and suet feeders.

Northern Cardinals prefer tray feeders so they can perch on a ledge.

Chickadees are nimble to land on small perches or cling to wire netting surrounds feeders.

Other birds, including several species of sparrow, feed on or near the ground, and

woodpeckers love suet hanging from tree trunks.

Fall Migration Tip 7 – Provide Food for Insect Eaters

Many backyard birds don’t eat seeds and eat insects and fruits.

Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, some woodpeckers, and migrating thrushes, thrashers, and tanagers feed on chunks of apples, berries, and jellies from containers.

Bluebirds, robins, mockingbirds, and some woodpeckers eat live mealworms served in a tray feeder.

Fall Migration Tip 8 – Bring Bird Sounds Indoors

Just because it’s cooler outside and we close our doors and windows doesn’t mean we have to block out birds’ beautiful sounds and chattering.

Install a wireless webcam outside to bring the sights and sounds of nature inside.

During fall migration you never know what bird might stop be dropping by

Fall Migration Tip 9 – Protect Birds Against Window Collisions

More birds collide with windows during fall than any other season of the year.

Migrating birds are not familiar with the terrain and see woodland reflections in a windowpane and fly right into it.

Apply screening or window decals on the outside of the windowpane to remove or mute the reflection, and the birds will veer away from it.

Shutting drapes inside will enhance the reflection on the outside.

Pasting silhouettes of birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, may also help deter flying birds.

Get Out and See Birds During Fall Migration

Fall migration is the best way for us to be inspired by nature and connect with the diversity of life in our backyard or local bird patch.

Have your binoculars and camera ready for your avian visitors, become a citizen scientist, and report sightings to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird.

Keep a journal of your sightings, detail what you see, and use your inspiration to draw some of your favorite feather friends.

If you are looking for a bird-themed journal, check out our vintage art natural baltic birch plywood covered spiral dream journals in our Etsy store. A portion of the profits of all sales is donated to bird organizations we support.

Use intoBirds’ dream journals as a field guide for chronicling bird sightings, a sketchbook for your bird art, or a diary for preserving your precious memories

Bask in the awe and wonder that each visitor brings to your backyard.

Protect the birds, and we protect the earth.

Let us know what you’re seeing in your backyard during fall migration, and if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, follow us and tag #intobirds, and we’ll share your pics.


Leave a Reply
  1. Yep Renee:

    Looking fwd to seeing my buddies on the return soon. The Juncos are my harbingers of migration. Got the windows taped up. 7 fatalties this spring. Hope the fall run has none.

    Is that a Redpoll on the cover? I love when this irruptive species shows up in Toronto☺

    • Hi Dave…Yes, that’s a Common Redpoll. They’re such beautiful birds we couldn’t resist featuring it. The window decals should help with the window strikes. Most of our window strikes are because of a predator flying through and sending the songbirds into a panic. We’re excited to see our fav: the White-throated Sparrow. Enjoy your fall visitors.

  2. I leave my birdhouses up all year round, even during winter. A few neighbors began to wonder, “Do birds use birdhouses during winter?” 🙂

    • Yes, birds do make use of birdhouses in the winter. Some birds don’t migrate to warmer climates during the colder winter months, and not all birds nest in trees or shrubs. So keeping birdhouses up provide birds with a safe place to roost and get out of the cold. We leave our birdhouses up during winter and the House Wrens make use of them.

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