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Helping birds during fall migration

Birds face many threats in fall.
Birds face many threats in fall.
Melissa Mayntz

Fall migration is a dangerous time for birds, but there are many easy things backyard birds can do to help keep migrating birds safe. Even in late summer as migration is just beginning, hazards can threaten both birds on the move and resident birds that compete with migrants, including:

  • Habitat loss from summer wildfires, construction projects or seasonal flash floods. In many cases, habitats birds used just a few months earlier during spring migration may no longer be available in fall.
  • Hunting, not just from hungry predators and their new offspring, but from sanctioned hunts at gun clubs, licensed hunters and unscrupulous poachers.
  • Outdoor pets and other feral, invasive predators that new migrants – birds just hatched a few weeks earlier – are not expecting because they have no experience with them.
  • Collisions with artificial structures such as buildings and windows, particularly at night when lights distract birds from their nocturnal migration.
  • Food scarcity as summer food supplies wane but more birds are competing for them as migrants move into the same territories as resident birds.

Despite the magnitude of these autumn threats, birders can prepare their backyards to help migrants make the journey safely.

  • Protect local habitats by supporting refuges and working to create a bird-friendly landscape in the backyard so birds have a safe place to rest.
  • If you are a hunter, hunt responsibly and opt for non-lead ammunition so birds are not contaminated by any toxic remnants in carcasses.
  • Keep pet cats indoors and take steps to discourage feral cats, including supporting local animal shelters so they can care for more unwanted animals.
  • Support Lights Out programs to protect migrating birds, and encourage tall buildings to turn off as many nighttime lights as possible during peak migration periods.
  • Offer good, nutritious food at backyard feeders, including high energy suet and sunflower seeds so birds can refuel easily, and keep feeders clean and safe.

With just a few easy steps, backyard birders can help protect migrating birds every fall. Learn more about the threats to migrating birds, and what you can do to help!

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