Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

By Franny Zollinger, September 18, 2014, Events & Fun

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

Sandhill Cranes near Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Bailey County, Texas

Birdwatchers all over Texas love the fall migration!  Texas is located in the middle of a high traffic zone as migratory birds all over North America make their long journey South for the winter.  If you live near the Gulf of Mexico, you are likely to see even more species as they fly through or around the Gulf into Central & South America.  Not sure when the birds will make it to your area?  Check out this handy bird forecast with radar imaging.  With 98.5% of migratory birds in North America flying through Texas, there’s a good chance you will see some of these seasonal birds in your area.  We can help out these weary travelers by offering a few basic accommodations.

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

1) WATER

This is the most important thing you can offer the birds. They need a source of clean, fresh water to drink. Include a feature that moves the water to further ensure birds will be able to see or hear it as they pass through your area. Options include a drip feature, mister, bubbler, or waterfall, but whatever you might choose, water movement is key to attracting birds to your yard. It also helps if you clean it out at least once a week.

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

Cedar Waxwing enjoying berries from a dogwood tree.

2) FOOD

Grow plants in your yard that will attract birds to provide them with food & shelter. Research trees & bushes for your area that will produce fruit or berries late in the season, offering a natural source of food. Ornamental grasses can offer seeds that birds like juncos, sparrows, or buntings can eat in the fall & winter. Refrain from using pesticides & herbicides that are not environmentally friendly as that will compromise the food you are offering the birds.

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

Baltimore Oriole

You can also provide bird feeders. Keep in mind that they will need to be cleaned regularly to prevent illness from spreading between birds. You will also want to include extra feeders throughout your yard as more birds come through. Offer a variety of feeders to see a variety of birds: fruit, nectar, seed, suet, & insects. Oranges are a great source of sugar and can draw in the stunning orioles seen in the photo above. Buy live mealworms at your local pet store and find dried ones in the bird food section. Mealworms are a great source of protein and energy, and though they may cost more than regular birdseed, you may be pleased at the different kinds of birds drawn to the insects in your feeders.

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds in East Texas, September 2014

Specifically, offer multiple nectar feeders to see many different species of hummingbirds as they pass through Texas. There may even be multiple birds sharing a single feeder, a behavior unheard of the rest of the year for these territorial little birds! Report your hummingbird sightings and see maps of their migration here or read more about their migration here. It’s also not too late to visit the Hummingbird Celebration in Rockport coming up this weekend!

Attracting the Migrating Birds in Fall: 3 Tips for Budding Birdwatchers

Chickadee resting in a pine tree

3) SHELTER

In order for your travelers to feel safe stopping over in your yard, you will need to supply them with a secure place to rest. Dwarf conifer trees make a wonderful shelter. They can double as a source of food providing seeds from their cones and insects that live in the trees. You can also collect all your fall trimmings from trees & bushes to create a brush pile in a corner of your yard. Keep outdoor cats indoors during the migration period, as cats kill millions of wild birds each year.

Which migratory birds are you most interested in seeing this fall? Share your favorite birds and birdwatching tips in the comments!

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