How to Attract Migrating Birds

We recently attended the Boston Local Food Festival which was a fun event, and great exposure for our product.  One of our booth visitors asked me an interesting question I had not considered: How do I attract migrating birds?  I didn’t have a readily available answer, but promised her that I would research and write a blog post about the topic as I found it intriguing.

The short answer is: Make your backyard as inviting to birds as possible.  There’s no one, go-to tip for attracting migrating birds specifically.  There are, however several tactics that can increase your chances of seeing these birds and accommodating their travel needs.

First the basics:

  1. Stock your bird baths with fresh, clean water.  Moving water (bubbling, dripping) is a plus.
  2. Stock your feeders with fresh, clean bird food.
  3. Spread birdseed (and millet) on the ground, for those birds unable to feed from an elevated feeder.
  4. Put out suet (this one is our favorite) as it contains the fat and nutrients birds need for their long journey.

There are then a few specific things that will help birds on a journey.

  1. Provide shelter by postponing fall cleanup, and create brush piles that offer coverage and safety for visiting birds.
  2. Keep your nectar or sugar feeder out longer for hummingbirds, and Orioles who pass through on their way to warmer temperatures.
  3. Be consistent.  Migrating birds will return to the same areas to feed on their journey.  If those disappear, they will have difficulty finding a new feeding/rest location.
  4. Double up on your feeder.  Birds flocking will appreciate having the extra room to stop and feed.
  5. Turn off the lights!  Artificial lights can confuse and disorientate migrating birds.
  6. Long term: Choose native plants that offer food and shelter for birds in your region.

Further reading: Here’s a great article for those in Texas, or other southern states who are on the “other end” of the Fall migration journey.

**Update** – I posted this question to the /r/birding subreddit on and got some great responses!

Photo Credits:

Sérgio Rola

Milada Vigerova


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