Date: 10/11/18 12:12 pm From: Butch Tetzlaff <butchchq8...> Subject: October lull at feeders
My wife and I have been collecting yard data for the past 4 years using the Project Feeder Watch protocol. However, we have been doing it year-round rather than only during the winter time period.
It has provided us with wonderful information about the natural ebb and flow at our feeders both by time of year and species.
Looking at the data, October is consistently the slowest month of the year. Having talked with folks in the bird feeding industry, they report that the slowest time of year for them (in terms of seed sales) is also in October. Birds just don't seem to be visiting feeders as much this month in general.
The question is why?
I can (and have) posed several explanations for this including migration timing, natural seed availability, timing of molt, and juvenile dispersal. All of the above probably coincide to a certain degree to create a perfect storm of fewer birds at our feeders this month. But they have to eat something, and they have to be somewhere.
The perplexing thing is that most of our feeder birds in NWA are residents (non-migratory). Also, many of them are insectivorous woodland birds, so saying they are in the fields eating all the weed seeds doesn't add up. Molt is physiologically expensive, so one would think birds would be gorging themselves to get enough calories, and feeders are a quick way to do that. Lastly, if it were primarily juvenile dispersal, one would expect as much immigration as emigration in contiguous forest patches, unless there were a systematic directional dispersal, and that is generally called "migration", which we have already said that many tend not to do.
So, to me, this observation remains to be fully explained.
Has anyone seen any real research on this topic to better explain the phenomenon?