Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Birds are Missing in New England

Where have all the birds gone?  A month ago I noticed a sharp drop off of goldfinches at the feeder. The local bird seed supplier has seen his sales of birdseed go to almost nothing, as there are so few takers at the feeders.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have heard that there is a staph infection raging especially among the finches. Come to think of it I have not seen many either. It was a wet year there is a lot of food. N1IPP

Anonymous said...

By the way the local bird seed supplier has the best birdseed. Squirrels and bird are in agreement. N1IPP

Anonymous said...

Steve B said the same exact sudden decrease occurred in NH. This is widespread.

Bob Crowley said...

December 13 2009 update: I have had many google hits - people entering "birds gone in New England" and similar search strings. Today I saw juncos, rufous sided towhees, bluejays, nuthatches, chickadees, one titmouse, one dove, and several crows. No finches of any kind to be seen here in Sudbury. I even got rid of my old feeders, bought fresh seed and tested my old seed for salmonella. Negative on that.

Several weeks ago I did see one juvenile-ish appearing goldfinch at the feeder, sluggish and wobbly.

Certainly, something has happened to the birds.

Anonymous said...

Right next door to Sudbury, we have seen the same complete collapse (not too strong a phrase) of the population of birds at the feeder. We have changed seed, scrubbed the feeders clean (water and 5% bleach, thoroughly rinsed), etc., to no avail.

Over the past 7 years, we have had no trouble getting very large populations of all types of birds to our feeders. Usually in a day or two we are at full strength. Since we restocked the feeders in September, we have not seen any birds to speak of (the occasional chickadee). This is widespread, across all species.

We are on the edge of a conservation area (typical eastern New England mixed forest) and see a lot of chickadees, goldfinches, titmice, cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers (hairy, downy, and red bellied), dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, crows, some blue jays and wrens. They are all gone. (Gray and red squirrels are gone too; however, the chipmunk population is holding up.)

We feed suet, black-oil sunflower, and niger/thistle. There is no interest in any of these foods (if there are any birds even out there).

We have not been able to identify birds beyond the feeder. There are few in the trees and the songs are gone, for the most part. Chickadees still call, but they don't seem to be going to the feeder in any numbers. Other bird calls (noticeably absent are the doves) are gone.

I don't see how this is the result of the wetter than usual year leading to an oversupply of readily available natural food. I have never seen birds "prefer" natural foods when there is abundant feeder food. They are scavengers and go for the easiest food available. Every year, we have to refill the feeders every other day.

I have talked with many friends in the metrowest area and every single one is experiencing the same thing. But I see no discussion of this among any of the usual suspects (including Mass Audubon, Bird Observer/MassBird, or Cornell).

Who would know about this?

Bob Crowley said...

My company is next to Farmer's Exchange, which sells birdseed among other things. Sales have dropped and the standard answer is "just nature's bounty" which is nonsense.

The birds are sick. Today I saw a sluggish juvenile goldfinch at the brand new, cleaned and tested thistle feeder. He looked and acted hungry, but didn't seem to care about me. I think he is a survivor, now getting his appetite back.

Yesterday a very good sized flock of fit looking juncos arrived, and they do like thistle on the ground, so I am watching them closely.

Who would know indeed? The Audubon Society has been silent.

Bob Crowley said...

Oh, and of course, we could certainly be the culprits, with tainted seed perhaps, or by spread of disease at feeders.