25 Dazzling Fall Bird Photos You Need to See
Readers share their favorite fall bird photos and stories. Plus, tips for attracting fall birds!
As the weather gets chilly and the air crisp, birds like woodpeckers, chickadees and robins visit backyards for food and shelter. And each year, our readers share their favorite snapshots of the fall birds that touch down in their own backyards. We rounded up 25 of our favorite photos in this slideshow. You can submit your beloved fall bird photo to Birds & Blooms using our submission form: Submit Your Fall Bird Photo!
Make sure fall birds aren’t disappointed when they touch down in your backyard when you keep these three basic fall bird-feeding tips in mind. (Just make sure your camera is at the ready!).
3 Tips for Attracting and Feeding Fall Birds
- Have Many Different Kinds of Feeders: For the best chance of attracting the widest variety of local and migrating birds, be sure to use multiple feeders. Tube feeders attract fliers such as finches, sparrows and titmice; hopper feeders are shaped like little buildings, with a roof that protects seed and a tray where birds like northern cardinals, grosbeaks and doves can sit and eat. Woodpeckers and chickadees like to cling to suet feeders.
- Keep Hummingbird Feeders Up: Orioles, hummingbirds and tanagers count on plenty of fruit, flowers and feeders on their way south, so they’ll likely stop for a sip of sugar water served in an oriole or hummingbird feeder. (Learn how to make your own sugar water for hummingbirds here!) Keep feeders up until late fall. You never know what stragglers might pass by, and they’ll really appreciate the energy boost.
- Practice Good Bird Feeder Maintenance: Check the condition of bird feeders and squirrel baffles to make sure they will make it through the winter. Replace the ones you can’t repair. Make the switch to hopper-style feeders, which are more practical than tray feeders at times when the moisture from rain and snow can ruin food. Tube feeders work well in inclement weather, too.
“Every autumn I eagerly look forward to the annual migration of sandhill cranes through southeastern Tennessee. Most years, it’s October when I hear the distinct throaty call of cranes flying overhead. The weary travelers rest for a couple of months at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge near Birchwood, Tennessee, where I photographed these three birds in flight. It’s a thrill to observe them during their short visit.”
Dan Sommers Chattanooga, Tennessee
“While picking out pumpkins, I saw some broom corn and decided to hang it up near my backyard feeders. The American goldfinches, which had been absent for about a month, quickly came back to eat the seeds and use the broom corn as a perch while waiting for the feeders. It certainly made for a beautiful photograph.”
James Prutilpac Morgantown, West Virginia
“I love photographing small birds when their rapid movement and the trees’ interfering branches add to the challenge of getting a standout shot. I’m red-green colorblind, so the way this pine warbler flitted about attracted me. If it had been a painted bunting or a cardinal, I might not have even noticed it! The pine warbler seemed curious about my camera, and it paused long enough for me to get this picture.”
Mark Menser Winder, Georgia
Great horned owl
“This great horned owl lives in my yard, and I like watching and photographing it and its sibling. This photo, taken on a windy August afternoon, shows the 6-month-old owl trying to hang on tight in my sycamore tree.”
Leslie Ashford Madison, Mississippi
“I was taking photos of some red-winged blackbirds when this female snatched up a dragonfly to feast on. Sometimes an opportunity like this one falls right into your lap, but other times you can shoot all day and not get many keepers. I took this photograph at a marsh connected to Lake George in New York.”
Don Blais Mechanicville, New York
“This pileated woodpecker landed on a stump near my home and immediately began searching for food. A close look at its beak shows a small insect it found. I was glad I had my Nikon D300 with me so I could get the shot before the woodpecker took off. A friend witnessed the scene and could not believe the bird landed so close to me.”
Tom Lusk Lansdowne, Ontario
Bonus tip! The easiest way to spot woodpeckers is to use your ears. Listen for their quick tapping on dead trees as they hunt for insects.
“Living in central Florida is fantastic! Our region has some of the most exciting and gorgeous bird species, like this osprey. As it swooped down to grab a fish, it stretched out its talons as it neared the water’s surface, and I love how I was able to capture its pose at this exact moment.”
TJ Waller Winter Springs, Florida
“I leave my flowers and seed-bearing plants intact at the end of the growing season because they provide much-needed food for the birds during the fall and winter months. The dried plants also provide a perch for the birds to rest, like a dried sunflower head did for this sweet black-capped chickadee.”
Kathy Diamontopoulos Haverhill, Massachusetts
“There were hundreds of these birds stripping nearby berry bushes one September morning. After I took this photo, I was surprised to learn that these birds are young starlings. I’d always thought that starlings only had black feathers. The darker bird on the right is either a female or young red-winged blackbird.”
Melissa Rowell Vestal, New York
“A white-breasted nuthatch hopped down a longleaf pine tree right in front of my farm truck. I sneaked over with my camera, leaned against the grille of the truck and waited for the right moment. I wasn’t disappointed!”
Roger Stranc Rembert, South Carolina
Bonus tip! In winter, white-breasted nuthatches trade insects for seeds, like acorns and pine nuts, and eat a mostly vegetarian diet.
“I adore cardinals, especially in fall and winter. This female landed in a nearby dogwood tree, and I immediately focused the camera on her. I was almost afraid to hope for a photo of her taking off, but I kept my arms and hands steady despite my nervousness. As she spread her wings in the morning sun, I held my breath and started snapping. The final result completely made my day.”
Vera Walling Orangeburg, South Carolina
“Even as the weather cools down, I keep my camera handy. I took this photo of a tufted titmouse from inside a garden shed that I’ve converted into a bird blind. I set up an area with branches and seeds about 20 feet from the shed’s window. So that I don’t disturb the birds, I keep the window closed and use a webcam to keep an eye on my photography subjects. That way, I’m ready to snap the shutter at the perfect moment.”
Lucian Parshall Brighton, Michigan
Bonus tip! Tufted titmice store as many seeds as they can in fall and winter, taking full advantage of bird feeders.
“A streak of blue flew through my yard with a loud, hawklike scream and landed on a nearby tree. The racket quickly gave way to a pensive quiet amid fall colors that created the perfect backdrop for the blue jay’s dramatic markings. My camera always reminds me to stop and notice the beauty of nature.”
Evelyn Anderson Ankeny, Iowa
“During a hike, we found a family of loons swimming under the bridge. The shallow water was so clear that we could see the parents teaching their two babies how to dive for fish. The patterns on their backs were dazzling.”
Lisa Howard St. Paul, Minnesota
“The bobbing bodies of these mallard ducks caught my eye one late afternoon on a hike. I watched them long enough to capture this image of their tandem dive for food.”
Laura Meier Bloomington, Minnesota
“I had just bought my first DSLR camera and happened to have it near me while I was doing yardwork in my grandfather’s backyard. A large bird landed in a pine tree, so I grabbed the camera and went to check it out. It wasn’t too concerned by my presence, and I got close for this snapshot. I later found out it was a pileated woodpecker. I’m really lucky that one of my first ventures into bird photography involved such a willing and interesting subject.”
Bob Fink Lewisberry, Pennsylvania
Bonus Tip! Pileated woodpeckers have long barbed tongued designed for scooping bugs out of trees.
“I’m lucky enough to live next to Versailles State Park, the second-largest state park in Indiana. This bald eagle was perched in a tree overlooking the lake, and I slowly worked my way to a spot directly below this amazing bird. It posed for about a half-hour and, from time to time, looked down to see what I was up to.”
Jim Waldo Versailles, Indiana
“It’s thanks to our 4-year-old grand-daughter that this photo even happened! She spilled birdseed all over our front porch, and this female cardinal flew in for a snack. More birds flocked to the porch, too—and some came so close that I couldn’t get the camera to focus on them.”
Gary Adams Waco, Texas
“I have transformed my backyard into a bird sanctuary, including goldfinch feeders, hummingbird feeders, a birdbath—you name it! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would attract such a large variety of birds, though. Bushtits, black phoebes, Nuttall’s woodpeckers, orange-crowned warblers and Anna’s hummingbirds have all stopped by. But the one bird I can’t get enough of is the yellow-rumped warbler. It doesn’t come around often and is very shy and difficult to photograph. I was very lucky to have gotten this photo of it.”
Sheralyn Maddock Rancho Palos Verdes, California
“While visiting a friend in Florence, Arizona, I spotted two burrowing owls. At first I thought they were merely a couple of lumps of dirt, until one did some lovely posing for me. But this one hung back for the longest time. When it finally decided to pop up, it just stood there with that deer-in-the-headlights stare. I told my friend about her owl neighbors, and now she texts me from time to time when she spots them.”
Pat Schoenfelder Imperial, Nebraska
“Two pairs of blue jays stop by here and there throughout the day to check if the peanut feeder has been filled. If it’s empty, they make sure I know it. There’s always a squawking uproar until I pour more peanuts in.”
Jennifer Arney Western Springs, Illinois
American tree sparrow
“The birds seemed to be waiting for my husband and me. As soon as we came home, they flocked to the feeders. As I snapped a few photos, this American tree sparrow looked right at me as if to say, “It’s about time you got home! I’m starving!”
My favorite thing about this species is their gray bushy eyebrows, which remind me of a grandfather’s. I call these cute, pudgy birds ‘old man sparrows.’”
Susan LoParco Cortland, New York
“There weren’t many people around when I last visited the botanical gardens in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so I enjoyed some quiet photo opportunities. In a small lake, several pairs of wood ducks were causing a minor ruckus. The ducks stirred up the water, creating fantastic gold swirls in the reflections on the surface.”
Carolyn Huskins Greensboro, North Carolina
“A red-headed woodpecker took corn from a feeder and paused on a tree limb before ferrying the treat back to a nest cavity. I happened to catch it just as it was taking off. The photo was taken at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, a county park near Maxwell, Iowa.”
Gary Hoard Madrid, Iowa
“My backyard fountain is a hot spot for birds to stop for a drink and a bath. This black-capped chickadee shows up every day around the same time. It is really enthusiastic and gets totally drenched. In this photo, I like how it seems to be sizing up the water bubble before plunging in again.”
Ken Orich Lethbridge, Alabama