My backyard has been an exceptionally quiet and boring place in recent weeks. The garden that for most months of the year is filled with birdsong and bird activity has been mostly deserted by the birds. All of the permanent resident birds of the area, except for the Carolina Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and (sigh) House Sparrows seem to have totally disappeared. Even the usually ever-present Northern Cardinals and White-winged Doves and the raucous Blue Jays have been absent.

This Great Abandonment is an event that happens every year in early fall. I have theorized in the past that it coincides with an abundance of wild food being available so that the birds do not feel the need to visit my feeders. I don't know that to be the case, but it seems reasonable. This year, however, the GA has lasted longer and has been even more complete than in other years, and I am really at a loss to know why.

Watching the feeders on Sunday afternoon, all I saw were the House Sparrows and an occasional chickadee and woodpecker. I could hear the wrens in the shrubbery but they never visited the feeders while I watched. I could also hear in the shrubs a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, the first of our winter visitors to arrive, and the resident Eastern Bluebirds calling as they flew overhead. But the yard was mostly still and silent.

Then, suddenly, in mid-afternoon, things started to look up. The goldfinches had arrived!

The first American Goldfinches to arrive in my yard in the fall usually do not visit the feeders right away. Instead, they will typically visit the wild food that is available, in this case the seeds of the crape myrtle, a particular favorite of the birds.

It's always exciting to see the first goldfinch of the fall. This year even they seem a little later in arriving than usual, but, in truth, they could have been here for the past week and I might not have seen them since I hadn't spent much time in the yard during that period. Nevertheless, I rejoiced to hear that familiar song once again.

So far, their presence is just a trickle, but if they are true to form, that will soon swell to a flood and, by the end of December, the yard will be overrun with these little finches and maybe even a few Pine Siskins. I can only hope.

And just to be sure that I am ready for the expected deluge, I went out today and bought a fresh supply of the goldfinches' favorite nyger seed!

One other postscript to my Sunday backyard bird watching: I had thought that all of our hummingbirds had left, but as I watched yesterday, there was one Rufous visiting one of my nectar feeders, so perhaps we will have a winter hummingbird after all.


  1. I bought a nyger seed feeder last year specifically to attract goldfinches. All the regular visitors love it and empty it seemingly overnight. But so far no goldfinches!

    1. The goldfinches here usually do not start showing up at my feeders until sometime in December. Then by the end of December they are all over the feeders, both sunflower seeds and nyger. But I'll get my nyger feeders filled and hung so I'll be ready for them. I have not experienced other birds visiting the nyger feeders.


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