Back to Nature (Published on - Oct. 18, 2007)
Birds, like people, are flocking to the Southeast
Photo by Rick Tremmel
A tufted titmouse visits the Tremmel feeder.
Traditionally 20 to 30 years ago American couples fell in love, got married, bought a home, had 2.5 children (not sure how they did that) and lived in the same house until their grandkids were old enough to come for visits.

In 2007, Americans have become increasingly on the move.

“The average American moves 11 times in a lifetime,” explains U-Haul President John “J.T.” Taylor. In 2005 and 2006, among the Top 10 U.S. states with more than 20,000 families moving in, the southeastern locations included Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee. During this time, the Southeast has seen rapid development and increases in human populations.

New research reveals that people are not the only animals moving to the Southeastern region, some species of birds are, too.

Bird watchers across the region have helped chart changes in the region’s feeder birds by participating in Project FeederWatch, a volunteer-based project led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Southeast region for Project FeederWatch includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. For example, reports from the Southeast indicate that populations of two dove species are rapidly expanding their ranges in the region.

The Eurasian collared-dove is not native to North America. However, after being introduced in the Bahamas and spreading to Florida in the 1980s, populations of this species have rapidly grown and expanded into new areas.

FeederWatchers across the Southeast reported these doves last winter, and this new invader will likely be seen at feeders across the United States within a decade.

The white-winged dove is moving into the region a bit more slowly. Unlike the Eurasian collared-dove, the white-winged dove is native to North America. It has been spreading out if its historic range in Mexico and the Southwest, with birds seen most often in states along the Gulf Coast. This dove, too, will likely be seen at more feeders in the region in coming years.

Another surprising trend detected by bird watchers in the Southeast has been an increase in the number of hummingbirds in the winter. Many people are familiar with the ruby-throated hummingbirds that buzz around flowers and nectar feeders in the summertime.

Upon close inspection, however, most of the hummingbirds seen in winter are not the ruby-throated hummingbirds that nest in the region, but rather western species that typically winter in Mexico. An increase in hummingbird feeders and flowers blooming year-round in suburban gardens may have increased the likelihood that any lost hummingbirds will survive the winter in the Southeast. Over time, this could lead to more and more hummingbirds traveling to spend the winter in the region.

Each season brings new information about bird populations.

To a songbird, 20 years is a long time. In fact, the birds at your feeders have passed through several generations in the last 20 years. What will the coming winter bring to bird feeders? You can help document changes in bird populations.

Anyone can contribute observations of birds seen at feeders during the winter months. Combined with reports from across the region, the information submitted by participants can help reveal trends in bird populations. FeederWatchers help to document changes in the abundance and distribution of birds by simply watching and counting the birds at their own feeders.

Top 10 birds reported by FeederWatchers in the Southeast in 2007:
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Mourning Dove
3. Tufted Titmouse
4. Carolina Wren
5. American Goldfinch
6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
7. Carolina Chickadee
8. Blue Jay
9. Downy Woodpecker
10. American Robin

The 21st season of Project FeederWatch gets under way in November and runs through early April. Anyone in the United States and Canada can participate, and people of all ages and skill levels are welcome.

“FeederWatchers across the Southeastern U.S. have helped create the world’s largest database of feeder-bird populations,” said ornithologist and project leader David Bonter. “To understand the effects of global climate change, habitat change, and other factors on birds, we need new and veteran participants to let us know what they are seeing in their own yards and neighborhoods.”

To learn more about Project FeederWatch or to register, visit" target="_blank"> or call the Lab toll-free at 800-843-2473. You also may visit the Lab’s Web site at

Karen can be reached at

Copyright © 2004-2017 Karen Mitchell Tremmel, All Rights Reserved.
All text in this site is original and copyrighted by the author, who writes for a living. Please do not reproduce in whole or part without permission, except for brief quotations covered under the "Fair Use" provision of U.S. copyright law. Thanks.