I put out a new feeder the other day, and the backyard birds were all over it as soon as I moved away. Something strange happens to us (and animals) in the fall when the daylength begins to decrease. We (and the animals) seem to be driven to eat more and put on fat for the coming winter. Do you have starch cravings in the fall? I do, and I seem to reset my appetite regulator when days are less than 12 hours and nights are cool. If I don’t watch it, I can easily add an extra 10 pounds. The birds must feel it too. They emptied the feeder in two days!
(Below, Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatchs — looking blue instead of gray due to the light, and Blue Jays were the most frequent visitors to the feeders this week.)
Here’s a fancy new word to impress your friends: this fall feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia, which means literally excessive eating. Chickadees, nuthatches, and jays may actually be storing food in crevices and not really consuming everything they take from the feeder. However, migratory birds add to their fat stores by searching out higher quality (high fat and protein) foods and increasing their digestive efficiency. Blackpoll Warblers double their weight in the fall before migration, and the extra is all fat, making them about 50% fat by weight.
Good thing we are not programmed to go through that kind of a weight gain!