Bird Feeders

Asked January 21, 2020, 4:34 PM EST

I have always had a number of bird feeders in my yard. This year the number of birds are down and some species are not here. Cardinals seem to be abundant, but blue jays, gold finches, house finches, carolina wrens, etc. are not here. What has happened to the bird population?

Calhoun County Michigan

1 Response

Hi there,
There are a number of reasons why particular bird species and numbers can fluctuate from year to year at your bird feeder. It is impossible to know what is going on exactl in your situation, but here are a few reasons bird populations shift:

1) Natural food sources vary from year to year. If there is an abundance of natural foods, then the birds may be utilizing those instead of your provided food.
2) Habitat changes nearby may have changed the suitability of your area for birds and they may have moved on
3) Irregular migrations. While some birds like hummingbirds or indigo buntings have a consistent migration from year to year triggered by annual cycles, other birds have more opportunistic migrations based on weather conditions or food conditions. Birds like Blue Jays and American Goldfinches have irregular migration patterns and migration in different densities and to different locations from year to year.
4) Presence of a predators like a hawk or cat. Outdoor cats are one of the biggest human caused killers of native bird species and should always be kept indoors.

There are a number of other reasons that could be at play. Check out this article from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Ebird to learn more, and to learn how you can be part of citizen science projects to help monitor changes to bird populations.

Hope that helps!

-Elliot Nelson