Over the past few months — and even more so over the past few weeks — I have been asked the question, “Where are all of the birds?” Numerous customers have had this concern, which also extends to hummingbird activity. In fact, many people have said they aren’t seeing any hummingbirds in their yard.
At first, the reports of a dearth of birds seemed a little unsettling. However, my own personal observation leads me to believe that everything is OK with our local bird numbers. Bird activity at feeders tends to ebb and flow, and is affected by the bird’s ability to find sufficient food in nature.
In reality, we don’t need to feed birds. That statement might come as a shock to those who know me, seeing as how I make a living selling bird seed. However, it is true. The food we provide in our yards for birds merely supplements what they find naturally in nature.
My personal philosophy on bird feeding is this — we feed birds not because they need us to feed them, but because we want to invite nature into our lives. Watching birds creates within us a connection to nature. It lifts our spirits. It brightens our day. We feed birds because we want to encourage bird activity in our yard so we may see them up close and personal.
It is my experience that birds prefer seeking food in a natural setting — finding seeds, insects, fruit, berries, nuts, whatever is their preferred food source. However, when times are lean, they will readily belly up to the birdy buffet we create in our yards — the seed and nectar feeders, along with suet and seed and nut cakes.
Right now, birds are not heavily dependent on human-provided food sources. The abundance of moisture we have received throughout the Arizona Central Highlands since last year’s monsoon season has created a bumper crop of natural food sources of which wild birds are taking advantage.
The wild birds in our area, unlike a year ago at this time, are not stressed. Last year, between January and July, we were in a horrible drought. The birds in the Prescott area were hard-pressed to find natural food sources, because we hadn’t received enough moisture for nature to produce its normal bounty of flowers, seeds and fruits. The birds were stressed.
Last year our seed sales during the months of April and May (during spring migration) were up over 30 percent from the previous year for the same time frame. This year, it is safe to say, our seed sales are down significantly for the same time frame. The reason is because there is so much “wild” food available to the birds in nature.
Will it swing the other way again? Yes, of course. In the meantime, keep your feeders clean and maintain a level of bird feeding activity for your enjoyment. Maintain your nectar feeders, keep them clean and filled with fresh nectar. The birds will come back — when they need to.
As I have been observing the bird activity in my yard (not at my feeders) this past week, I don’t get the feeling that I should be concerned. The birds are out there — they’re just not at the feeders so much right now. I feel the variety of birds and the number of birds I’m seeing in the neighborhood seems fairly normal.
On a different note, right now is the time to be on the lookout for baby quail. It should be an amazing year! Because of all of the moisture we’ve received, we should anticipate large clutch sizes.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.