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Main Content

Bird Migration and Feeding

Courtesy of Global Harvest Foods

Look up at the sky in the fall, and you’re certain to see groups of birds flying overhead. Did you know that bird migration actually takes place in both spring and fall, day and night, and that you can help migrating birds by doing a few things at home?

Being a Friendly Bird Host

Light, temperature, offspring and food supply all impact bird migration. You can help hungry and tired travelers migrate more easily by keeping your lights off at night, filling bird feeders, providing clean water, and planting native trees, plants, and flowers that offer year-round food and shelter. Most migrating birds consume insects (mealworms/suet), fruit, and nectar, so we recommend providing more of those goodies in the spring and fall to help out our feathered friends. 

Spring Migration

In the spring, from March through May, birds that nest in the Northern Hemisphere return to their spring and summer homes to nest and raise their babies (yes, hummingbirds too!). Less natural food is available, because most berries and seeds have already been eaten, little growth has begun, and it’s still too early for insects. All species, migrating or resident, appreciate the extra energy supplemental feeding provides at this time of year.

Fall Migration

In the fall, from September through November, babies join their parents on their first migration, so there are more mouths to feed on the journey. We recommend adding more suet to your feeding stations (a fast source of fat and calories), and keeping your hummingbird feeders up until three weeks after you see the last hummingbird. Whether fueling their journey, or helping resident birds gain weight for the cold winter months ahead, your birds will thank you. 


Migratory Flyways

Billions of birds representing more than 300 species migrate through North American flyways each year, facing a growing number of threats including habitat loss, climate change, starvation and collisions.

  • Atlantic Flyway
  • Mississippi Flyway
  • Central Flyway
  • Pacific Flyway 

Birds that Stick Around

Not all birds migrate for the winter. Called “resident birds”, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, House Sparrows, House Finches, blackbirds, chickadees, doves, nuthatches and some woodpeckers stay put year-round. There's even a species of hummingbird along the West Coast that doesn't really migrate—the Anna's Hummingbird!