Cape May Bird Feeder Time

Here in Cape May, the warblers have migrated, the leaves have fallen from many trees, and robins are ravaging the beauty berries.  For some, this is the end of the birding year, but to others, these are signs that the other birding season has begun.  It’s time to put up the bird feeders and stock them with seeds.

I discovered the joys of feeding birds when I was about 10 years old.  My mother put out bread crumbs and a few seeds to feed the cardinals, chickadees, and house sparrows.  We didn’t have many more species in winter where I grew up, so putting out feeders in fall here in Cape May is a lot more fun.  Instead of a few species, we have more than a dozen that can be found at or around our feeders.

With the cold fall, blue sky days, our feeders begin to attract White-throated Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Mourning Dove, Blue Jays, American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadees, and Tufted Titmouse, as well as the less wanted pigeons, crows, starlings, cowbirds, grackles, and blackbirds.

Many of these species nest here in Cape May, but others have flown hundreds or perhaps 1,000 miles and may continue migrate much farther south.  Some of the migrants will remain for winter, leaving only when the warmer days of April signal that these birds can return to their northern nesting areas.

For the 5-6 months that some of these birds are in Cape May, they can be attracted to yards and gardens by simply putting out some sunflower seeds, either on the ground or in feeders hung above the ground.  Although these birds may not need this culinary subsidy, they certain benefit from it when the weather turns very cold or when snow covers their normal food sources.  And in the bleakness of winter they provide constant color, motion, and commotion, which we can view from the warmth of our homes.

About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.