Welcoming Migratory Birds to Your Backyard

Ideas to Maximize Backyard Visitors During Fall Migration

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It feels like we were welcoming our spring migratory birds only yesterday, and now it’s time to bid them a bon voyage for their fall migration.

We’re like proud parents watching them take flight, wishing them safe travels on their long journeys, and hoping they come back soon for another visit.

Luigi, our charismatic Gray Catbird, is one of our favorite spring visitors. We anxiously await his spring arrival and lament his fall departure.

But he always returns. Or at least another catbird returns in his place and earns the name Luigi. And so it goes.

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

Fall Migration is a Birdwatchers Delight 

It’s time to get excited about all the beautiful migratory birds we’ll see during fall migration and the new visitors we’ll be welcoming to our backyards through the winter months.

Fall migration is a spectacular time of the year all birdwatchers live for as 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. So keep your feeders stocked so these high-flying travelers can stop by for a visit or stay for the winter.

Here are a few ideas for welcoming more migratory birds to your backyard and helping them thrive during their stay.

1 – Provide Lots of 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.

Once we refresh our birdbath, our backyard catbird, Luigi, appears in the yard for his daily bath.

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

Our birdbaths are a hit with Mourning Doves, American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, and Blue Jays.

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. The model we purchased from Amazon just dropped in price, so pick one up for next spring.

2 – Keep Nectar Feeders Out for Migratory Birds

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.

Juvenile hummingbirds are the last to abandon nesting grounds and feed on nectar long after the adults have flown south, so you might get to spend more time with these backyard jewels than you think.

3 – Clean Out Empty Birdhouses for New Tenants

Now is the best 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 reside in birdhouses to keep warm and safe.

4 – Use Fall Clippings to 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. Instead, place them along the border of your yard to provide more cover that will last throughout the winter.

5 – Plant Evergreens for Cover

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

Our Cardinals and White-throated Sparrows love them. Cardinals use the branches as a runway while the White-throated Sparrows lurk on the ground below for protective cover.

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

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Indigo Buntings are always a welcome sight in your backyard

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, while chickadees are nimble enough to land on small perches or cling to wire netting surrounds feeders.

Other birds, including several sparrow species, feed on or near the ground, and woodpeckers love suet hanging from tree trunks.

7 – Provide Food for Insect Eaters

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

Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, some woodpeckers, 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.

Keep these beautiful birds happy, and they’ll reward you with frequent visits, and who doesn’t enjoy seeing a bluebird on a drabby day!

8 – Bring Backyard 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.

There’s nothing more beautiful than waking up to a Carolina Wren’s melodic song or a male White-throated Sparrow’s simple, yet beautiful clear, pure whistles.

9 – Keep Migrating Birds Safe Against Window Collisions

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

Migrating birds are unfamiliar with the terrain, 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 so 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.

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Crisp fall days welcome Short-eared Owls to our area in the Hudson Valley in New York

Get Out and Enjoy Seeing Migratory Birds

Fall migration is the best way 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 the inspiration they provide to enhance your creativity. 

Birdwatching is good for your health and provides you with an even greater appreciation of nature.

If you’re looking for a journal to keep track of your bird sightings, please consider our line of vintage bird art-inspired wood journals in our online store. For every sale, we donate to bird organizations.

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

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