Fall is a great time to go birding, but just as birds adjust their behaviors as the seasons change, so too must birders adjust how they interact with birds if they hope to enjoy the great diversity of autumn avian life.
Fall Birding Benefits
Fall is a wonderful birding season for many reasons. Temperatures are dropping and the weather is more tolerable for long trips into the field, unlike summer’s stifling heat. As the temperatures cool, leaves begin to fall from trees and it can be easier to see birds in densely wooded areas.
Fall is after most birds’ nesting season and young birds help create larger flocks for birders to spot. This is also a peak migration time, bringing many unique birds to areas where they wouldn’t normally be found. Because of this, fall can often be one of the most productive seasons for birders who know how to take advantage of it.
Where to Bird in Fall
Knowing where to find birds during the autumn months can make the difference between seeing the same local species and spotting new migrating visitors. The best spots to bird in the fall include:
- Waterways: Migrating waterfowl and shorebirds travel near bodies of water, including coastal areas, lakes and rivers.
- Cliffs: Thermal air currents near steep mountainsides or cliffs are the best place to spot migrating raptors.
- Grasslands: Open grasslands that have gone to seed are a hotspot for migrating sparrows and songbirds.
Of course, any suitable bird habitat can be a great place to check for unusual species in the fall. Don’t neglect your favorite birding hotspots as you watch for traveling visitors.
Autumn Birding Tips
To make the most of birding in the fall…
- Identify Birds Carefully: Autumn is an exciting time that may bring many transient birds to an area, but avoid jumping to unusual conclusions when spotting an unfamiliar bird. Young birds often resemble other species and can be tricky to identify properly.
- Dress Comfortably: The weather can be unpredictable in the fall, ranging from Indian summer heat to pre-winter chills in just a few hours. Dress in layers, and don’t forget to add a touch of bright yellow or orange to your attire if you will be birding in areas where hunting is popular.
- Watch the Time: As the days grow shorter and the birds more diverse, it can be easy to forget when the sun goes down. If you are birding in the evening, be sure to keep an eye on the clock so you aren’t caught far from safety as darkness settles.
- Attract Migrating Birds: It isn’t necessary to venture far to see unique migrating birds in the fall. Stock your backyard with seed and water, choose late blooming flowers, and try other tricks to attract migrating birds right to your door.
- Keep Dogs Leashed: Birds gather in tremendous flocks in the fall as they prepare to journey to their winter habitats, and so many birds in one location can be overly stimulating to a dog. If your pet will be joining you on a birdwalk, keep it securely leashed so it does not disturb the birds.
- Check Flocks Thoroughly: While from a distance a flock of birds may seem to be made up of a single species, many birds congregate in mixed flocks after the nesting season ends. Check flocks carefully to see if there are any unusual members you wouldn’t want to miss.
- Bird Frequently: During the fall migration, new birds will arrive at the same location every day. Visiting one location repeatedly can yield a range of unique species and is a great way to learn the migration habits of different birds.
- Be Polite: Birders should always follow proper birding etiquette and birding ethics in every season. During the fall, many hikers will be out to enjoy trails, and many other birders will also be exploring the territory.