Top Foods for Fall Bird Feeding

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

I know what you're thinking.. they're birds. Do I really need to change the food I'm feeding them just because the seasons change? The short answer is, no. You don't need to change the food you're feeding just because the seasons change. But there are major advantages for you, and for the birds, to incorporate certain foods into your feeding regime - to become "seasonally savvy", if you will. 

Hairy Woodpecker & Downy Woodpecker on Pileated Tail Prop Suet Feeder

Suet is a high-fat, high-protein substance that is invaluable to birds especially in times of stress like nesting season, while molting, during migration, and through cold & inclement weather. Suet cakes are available in a wide variety of mixtures and flavours, many of which include nuts & seeds, fruits, and sometimes insects. But not all suet cakes are made the same. If you read the ingredients on a run-of-the-mill suet cake from a big box or hardware store, you'll find that the main ingredient is often rendered beef fat - this is not the same as pure rendered beef suet which is found in all Wild Birds Unlimited Suet Cakes. What's the difference? Beef fat has less nutritional value and a less desirable texture than beef suet. Do the birds care? Yes! Pure rendered beef suet is more palatable and has the texture that birds prefer. The best suet cakes to offer this time of year are ones that are high in fat to help give the birds the energy boost they need to make it through the chilly days, and long, cold nights. The highest-quality and highest-energy suet to offer at this time is SuperSuet. SuperSuet is our top of the line suet cake, loaded with mealworms, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and calcium, to help support birds' nutritional needs as the seasons change. Click here to see how the birds react to our SuperSuet vs. other suet brands. 

Northern Cardinal feeding on Hot Pepper Bark Butter

Bark Butter
Similar to suet, Bark Butter is a high-energy food that can help birds survive and thrive as the temperatures drop. Bark Butter is an easily spreadable suet that can be offered on Bark Butter feeders, trees, rocks, or virtually any bird safe surface. Bark Butter's versatility is especially useful in the fall and winter months, when weather can be unfavourable. Spreading Bark Butter directly on to the trunk of a tree provides birds with an extra food source without having to leave the shelter and safety of the tree to get food. The ability to use essentially any surface as a feeder and place it for your best viewing, can also allow for unique views of species who wouldn't normally visit suet feeders, such as Brown Creepers, Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos, Robins, and even some warblers. 

Caching foods
Beginning in the fall, you may start to notice some birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, and some woodpeckers, grabbing food from your feeders and heading to a nearby tree, and repeating this action over, and over, and over (over, and over, and over) - seemingly to no end. What they're doing is storing those seeds in nooks & crannies in trees, between deck boards, under shingles, and anywhere else they can find that looks like a good hiding spot. This behaviour is called caching, and these caches of food are vital to the birds' survival during bad weather and when other food sources are running low. Some foods that are ideal for caching include sunflower seed, safflower seed, peanuts, and tree nuts. These foods are quite hardy and won't break down in harsh weather. Something else to consider during this rainy, damp, and sometimes frosty season, is offering a shelled seed mix opposed to a no-mess food. If you have secure feeders that do well to keep rain or snow out, this is not usually an issue, but if you have open feeders like trays or fly-through style feeders, a no-mess food can become saturated and mold more quickly than seed that is protected by a hard shell. Some seed blends that are perfect for fall and winter include our Choice & Choice Plus Blends, Supreme Blend, Deluxe LM Blend, and Seed Cylinders.

Black-capped Chickadee eating live mealworm from hand

Insects are a protein and nutrient dense food source, and nearly all of our native bird species consume them as part of their diet. But in the fall, it's much more difficult for birds to find insects to eat than it is in the warmer months. Mealworms (particularly live) can help fill the void. What are mealworms? They are the larval stage of the Mealworm (Darkling) Beetle. Different Darkling Beetle species can be found across the globe. Backyard birds in Ontario forage on beetle larvae and quickly recognize mealworms as food. Offering mealworms during the fall can help birds fulfill their protein needs without having to deplete their energy stores foraging in the wild. It can also aid in hand-feeding (shown above) if that is on your backyard bucket list. 😉 Click here to read more about feeding mealworms to your backyard birds. 

* Bonus: Heated Bird Bath
Okay, technically not a food.. but still a very important part of every bird-friendly back yard! We've already had some single-digit-temperature nights (and even some frost), and the deeper we get into fall the colder those nights and days will become. Incorporating a heated bird bath into your backyard birding set up ensures that the birds always have a source of open water to drink from. 

White-breasted Nuthatch with Bark Butter Bit

Enjoy the fall birding season and all the wonderful birds it has to offer, and be sure to share your photos & experiences with us and our online community, Ontario Birds by WBU Barrie and WBU Newmarket!

Happy trails! 
- Shayna

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