"Is it time to put out the bird feeder now that fall is here?" I'll be asked that question over and over again as the days shorten, get cooler, and winter approaches.
The real answer is that the time to put out the feeder is every day you want to see birds! Most of the birds that eat in your backyard are not migratory, they are the seed eaters, and seed is available to them year round. Ironically, seed is an autumn crop, and is most abundant in the wild in the fall, when many people assume the birds feel the need.
The least amount of seed is available in Spring, when many folks assume the birds are ok on their own. There is some seed available in spring, but early summer is the longest time after last year's crop, so most of it has been eaten by then!
Birds eat most of their diet in the wild, using feeders as "fast food" or a supplement to what they need nutritionally. That's why they like the fatty seeds so much, like sunflower and peanuts. Putting out Black Oil Sunflower and Peanut pieces will make more than half the birds in your backyard happy. Making these available any time of year will just like opening a fast food restaurant, they'll come to it no matter the season.
The migrating birds, on the other hand, need nutrition and plenty of fat to bulk up and keep them moving south. Migration is very exciting, because almost any bird in the world might happen by our area, whether in your back yard or "hotspot" like Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Queens. Just about every Audubon society on Long Island makes a birdwalk trip to Jamaica Bay in fall and spring, because of the possible diversity there. I lead most of the walks for Four Harbors Audubon, which covers the Stony Brook-Setauket-Port Jeff area, and when we go to Jamaica Bay, we rarely see less than fifty species!
That's one of the great things about wild birds, you can go to them, but you can also just put out the right food, and they'll come to you!