So, you’ve stepped out to greet the morning to the lovely song of your garden’s birds, only to find that your lawn is ominously quiet. You look around and notice that there’s not a feathered friend in sight, so, what happened? Why are the birds all gone?
Garden birds suddenly disappear because they don’t have the appropriate resources in your garden or they feel threatened. Birds need safe places to nest and perch, fresh water, and nutritious food to thrive. If they can’t find those things in your garden, they’ll look elsewhere.
Let’s play detective and get to the bottom of why your birds have left your garden. I’ll list why birds might abandon your area and help you determine how to fix the issue and bring back the birds.
Reasons Why Birds May Leave Your Garden
If your birds have left your garden, you’ll need to determine the root cause of their migration before you know what you need to do differently. Here are the most common factors that cause birds to leave a specific area.
A Predator Has Moved In Nearby
Garden-variety birds are very delicate creatures, and plenty of other animals, such as cats and predator birds, take advantage of that.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Ornithology, cats are the leading cause of bird deaths in Washington State. However, that isn’t the only claim against cats. Another study from Environment Canada corroborated that cats were the leading cause of bird deaths in Canada, estimating that 270 million birds die from cat attacks every year.
So, birds have good reason to be frightened when they spot a cat nearby.
Hawks also pose a significant threat to the smaller birds that once frequented your garden. A study by Erica Dunn and Diane Tessaglia published in the Journal of Field Ornithology proved that Hawks are second only to cats in the predation of birds.
They found that Hawks monitor the behavior of other birds and cunningly plan their attacks. They frequently watch birds at bird feeders, then quickly swoop by and take the most vulnerable bird, scaring off the rest.
However, hawks may also attack while songbirds nest or perch in nearby trees.
Although other predators aren’t as common as these two, birds such as kites, buzzards, or eagles, might scare them off.
So, keep your eyes sharp. Have you seen a predatory bird circling by? Or perhaps a stray cat is hovering near your driveway. If you notice any of these predators, they are likely the cause of your birds’ migration.
The Birds Cannot Find Appropriate Shelter
No one can live without shelter, including birds. Your garden birds stay nearby as long as they have a safe place to perch, hidden from predators like hawks and cats. Likewise, your garden birds should have safe spots to nest and rear their young. Otherwise, they won’t stay for mating season.
So, if your birds have suddenly disappeared, check for any recently fallen trees or land clearing processes that may have ruined your birds’ habitat.
You may also want to check on any birdhouses in your garden to ensure they are still in good condition. Unwanted visitors may make their way into a birdhouse and harm one of your birds, which might include:
If the other birds catch wind of death or injury, they may leave your garden to look for somewhere safer.
The Birds Need More Food
If you want your birds to stay, you’ll need to feed them. Letting your bird feeders run empty will cause your local aviary population to search for food elsewhere, and once they find it, they might stay there.
Your garden birds need a healthy diet to thrive, and the better the food you give them, the more likely they will be to stay in your garden.
Birds get their nutrients from foods like:
Bird food should include these ingredients to ensure that your birds get everything they need, especially during the winter. Other ingredients like milo and oats aren’t very healthy for birds, and your neighborhood flocks will likely leave those or pick them out and toss them away.
Suet is also a real crowd-pleaser, so keep some on hand if you want to bring back your birds.
You Don’t Have Fresh, Clean Water for the Birds
Birds need fresh water to bathe in and drink. So, if you don’t have any bird baths or basins out for the birds, it’s time to get one.
Besides the apparent necessity of drinking water, birds can suffer if they don’t bathe. According to a 2009 study, bathing helps birds keep their feathers in good condition for flying. During the study, researchers deprived a group of starlings of bathwater for just 24 hours. Then, each bird went through an agility test.
Those who had bathed performed significantly better than those who hadn’t.
So, providing birds with water will help them survive in all ways. On top of that, it’ll make them more comfortable and help them feel at home in your garden.
Someone Else Has Begun Feeding the Birds
If someone near you has laid out a more generous offering of food and fresh water than you have, the birds will likely set up camp in their backyard instead of yours. You shouldn’t be worried if this is the case. You’ll just have to up the ante and make your garden a paradise for them if you want them back.
The Season Has Changed
Seasonal changes mean varying behaviors from your birds.
During the molting season, birds are at their most vulnerable. It takes a lot of energy to fill out their new plumage and recuperate from the hormonal changes that come with the breeding season. So, they tend to hide while they molt, which usually lasts for a couple of months, either in spring or fall, depending on the bird’s species.
Likewise, during the summer, natural resources are more abundant, so birds might not need to rely on your garden as a source of food. During these hotter months, many birds will retreat to cooler, more forested areas with freshwater sources.
So, your local birds might have just gone for a vacation to the mountains.
How To Encourage Your Garden Birds To Return
If you want to get your birds back, there are several measures you can take to encourage them to move back home to your garden, which include:
- Fill up your feeders. Put out a high-quality blend of appropriate seeds, mealworms, and grains for your birds. To win their hearts, set out some suet as well. You should also periodically check the feeder to ensure that it isn’t jammed and that no fungi or pests are inside.
- Top up the birdbath. Be sure to clean and refresh your bird baths at least once a week.
- Deter predators. If the birds are gone, their predators will naturally begin to search for prey somewhere else. However, if you want your birds to come back sooner than later, use an owl decoy and wind chimes to scare off hawks and keep cats out of your garden.
- Add some birdhouses to your yard and maintain them. Birdhouses provide birds with places to nest and are safe havens from the rain, wind, and snow. So, ensure that you have one or two and keep them clean and pest-free to encourage your birds to make nests near your garden.
- Move your birdhouses, feeders, and birdbaths closer to covered ground. Birds need to feel safe, and most of them rarely prefer to fly across vast spans of clear land since they will not be able to hide if a predator comes their way. Moving everything they need to a secluded spot will keep them happy and healthy.
- Don’t clear your land. Birds prefer to perch in trees, where they are safe from predators. If you want the birds to stay, you’ll need to keep some dense foliage and trees nearby for them.
- Be patient. Sometimes, it isn’t your fault that the birds are gone. It might just be molting season, or the birds might have found a better place for foraging. If that’s the case, keep the food and water out, and some of the birds will eventually come back, especially when wintertime approaches.
If your birds have left your garden, don’t panic. They likely were not getting everything they needed, or they felt unsafe. To encourage them to return, set out some extra food and fresh water and ensure that there aren’t predators lurking.
You can also move your bird feeders, houses, and baths to a secluded location to ensure that the birds have everything they need and feel safe getting it.