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What’s changing at YOUR feeders?

July 21, 2011

To help us celebrate our upcoming 25th Anniversary season, we are looking for stories from participants about changes you have noticed at your feeders over the years – whether you have been participating for 25 years or one. Has a new species moved into the area? Is one of your favorite species becoming easier or more difficult to find? Please share your observations about notable changes by posting a comment below.

  1. July 21, 2011 10:26 am

    I have sadly noticed the decline of Evening Grosbeaks in my area of Northern Ontario, north of Lake Superior. 10 years ago, it was very common to have them at my feeders all year long in great numbers of 40 or more at any given time. Now, I’m lucky to see them in winter at all. In summer, I’m lucky to see a dozen. It’s so quiet without them! They are my all time favourite feeder bird and I miss them dearly. 😦

  2. July 21, 2011 10:52 am

    I was just in NW Indiana at my family home and noticed there were many more Cardinals than I used to see there.

    Here at my home feeder in Captiola, CA, I have noticed fewer hummingbirds so far this year. There has been an increase in children in our neighborhood and so more noise from them playing outside. Wonder if this has an effect on the hummingbirds coming to the feeder? Am hoping warmer weather and more blooms on my Morning Glory Vines will encourage more activity from the Hummers.

  3. Barbara permalink
    July 21, 2011 11:44 am

    Report from Lawrence Massachusetts. I have noticed a return of the mourning doves and purple finches and the robins are back in full force. We also notice the addition of catbirds and grackles. We had a humming bird visit the yard inspecting squash blossoms.
    The cardinals are pretty scarce. We have one couple in the area. House sparrows as always are numerous.

  4. Christina permalink
    July 22, 2011 12:52 am

    Notes from a Seattle, WA garden: Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, we had a steady population of house finches as well as English sparrows at our feeders. Quite abruptly, they both disappeared a few years ago. I know we had a Cooper’s hawk in the area, and wonder if it was the reason for the decline.

    After an absence of several years, however, the house finches are back. But the sparrows have not returned to the feeder and though I see them in the neighborhood they do not seem as numerous as in the past and rarely visit the feeder.

    During the finch/sparrow-free years, the number of Bewick’s wrens seems to have shot up, almost as though they took over the turf. I hear them everywhere now and see one regularly on the ground under the feeders.

    Recent hard winters have brought species I have never seen at the feeders: Townsend’s warblers, a varied thrush, and even a ruby-crowned kinglet.

  5. July 23, 2011 11:20 pm

    This may be a commong thing, but for me a first. A downy woodpecker frequents my hummingbird feeders. Very interesting and fun to watch and photograph.

  6. Margaret permalink
    August 16, 2011 3:00 pm

    I have 4 feeders which are visited by House Finches. I have noticed that several of them have some sort of deformity. 2 with beak bulges, 1 with an eye bulge and one that seem to have a larger and normal head. I do have pictures if anyone is interested. Just wondering if it is something to be concerned about. The other birds that I see around the house are humming birds, mocking birds, scrub jays and mourning doves. These all seem to be ok.

    • August 17, 2011 10:30 am


      Although it is difficult to diagnose diseases based on a description (or even a photo), there are two likely culprits affecting your finches. The “beak bulges” are most likely growths caused by avian pox, a virus that regularly impacts wild bird populations. Birds can recover from this ailment. The bulging eye is a classic symptom of an infection by the bacteria Mycoplasma gallisepticum, the bacteria that causes “House Finch Eye Disease.” You can learn more about both of these diseases on the FeederWatch web site. Click on ‘Birds and Bird Feeding,’ then click on ‘Diseased birds.” Note that it always good practice to clean your feeders in an effort to reduce disease transmission. We hope that your sick birds recover soon.

  7. Susan Callender permalink
    August 17, 2011 9:32 pm

    This is the first year we have seen Eurasian collared doves at our feeder in Black Forest, CO (elevation about 7500 ft). There are about 1/2 dozen of them and feed at the feeder instead of on the ground as the Mourning Doves are apt to do.

  8. birder 13 permalink
    August 19, 2011 1:37 pm

    when i first started pfw i had 30-50 goldfinch at a time. now i am lucky to have 1 or 2. they visit here in the south in winter.

  9. August 19, 2011 3:17 pm

    I have really enjoyed my hummingbird feeders this year because I learned how to make my own mixture for it instead of going broke on purchasing the liquid… I changed them frequently and the birds appreciated the fresh sugar water… so did the bees though!!

  10. August 19, 2011 8:20 pm

    we have a lone american Goldfinch that drops in once a year in august all by himself for the thistle eats like crazy and leaves after five minutes and doesn’t come back til the following year..This is in Wilton Ct and i’ve never ever seen one anywhere around here ever been here since 1995

  11. jude permalink
    August 23, 2011 1:10 pm

    The house sparrows are back in full force, the house finches are very rare, and any time a chickadee or titmouse or goldfinch comes around, they get chased off. I have the upside-down nyjer feeders, but the house sparrows just spin upside down and go for the seeds anyway.

  12. September 5, 2011 3:30 pm

    Last winter I had so many goldfinch visit my yard I was going through 40+ lbs of black oil seed a week, sometimes more. I was also buying 4-6 lbs of thistle a week. Also 40+ lbs of feeder select mixed seed. My yard was literally covered in goldfinch. I keep 18 feeders up year round and three large black oil seed platforms up. Usually I only need two thistle socks in the winter but last winter I kept 6 up. Every feeder was packed for months and every inch of ground under the feeders had goldfinch from sun up to sun set.
    Paxville area SC.

  13. Elizabeth Varley permalink
    September 24, 2011 4:11 pm

    When I started, many years ago, (in northern Delaware) I saw red-breasted nuthatches several times a month and rarely did white-breasted ones show up. As I look at my data I see that now there have been several years when I did not record ANY red-breasted over the entire season and white-breasted are almost a weekly visitor. I have no explanation for that one. One curiosity (to me anyway) is that goldfinches will ignore a thistle feeder if it is hung from a tree, but will come if I hang it from a post in the middle of the yard. Is it just my yard?? Or don’t they like feeding in the shade?

    • September 27, 2011 10:25 am

      Elizabeth — Chances are there is something peculiar about the feeder hanging in the tree in your yard that is unsettling to the goldfinches. These birds will visit feeders hanging from trees — we have several feeders in the woodlots here around Cornell that are regularly visited by goldfinches. In fact, birds are often more likely to feed closer to cover than in the open. It may be interesting to observe how birds move in your yard to see if you can identify why they seem to avoid a feeder in the tree.

  14. Dorothy Bast permalink
    October 4, 2011 10:01 am

    this is my 1st visit to your site…… very interested. Love the birds in my backyard. But now there are none.
    Our feeders are full with no birds….they are usually crowded with many.
    Since Irene passed through there are none ….do you know what happened to our little friends??

  15. JULIA STARN permalink
    October 8, 2011 9:27 am


  16. October 26, 2011 2:32 pm

    I started feeding birds a couple of years ago and have really enjoyed it so far. Yesterday was the first time I say a Brown Thrasher in my yard. He/she was on the ground under some bushes – entertaining to observe!

    I regularly put out orange slices for the woodpeckers and last month was treated to a flock of Baltimore Orioles. They loved them and the hummingbird feeders also. Looking forward to see who come to winter over down here in Houston!

  17. Mary Ann Manley permalink
    November 13, 2011 8:24 am

    I eagerly awaited the opening of my first project feeder watch participation but am dismayed to find a dramatic lack of birds at my feeders the past weeks. I feed the birds year round, and in slack times always have at least a group of titmice and chickadee hanging around. At any time I would look out the window one or two of these would be there. But for weeks I have had nothing. I witnessed a (probably) Cooper’s Hawk take a mourning dove at the field edge across the road from my front yard. I can’t believe that is the reason all my birds seem to have disappeared. I have black-oil sunflower seed out all the time, cracked corn feeders, the small finch seed, thistle seed, and suet cakes. Yesterday, for Day1 of my count I was only able to record 1 chickadee, 1 titmouse, 1 downy, 1 red-belied and 1 lone ‘mystery’ bird at the end of the day quietly feeding alone at the mixed seed feeder. I am 90% certain it was a female or juvenile cowbird. But can’t record it as a confirm. I did get a good picture of though, and will try to clarify that. Hoping for my birds to return!!! (Maryland’s eastern shore)

  18. November 9, 2012 3:49 pm

    Seven days after hurricane Sandy with a large downed maple tree in my yard I observed fourteen different types of birds including six quaker (Brooklyn) parrots at my feeders. In addition to the parrots I observed Juncos,finches, cowbirds,blackbirds, grackles,starlings,blue jays,woodpeckers, a sapsucker, sparrows, robins, doves, pigeons.

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