Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Fewer Feeder Birds and Migrants These Days
May 28, 2021
By Steve Grinley
I have had many customers say that they were inundated with birds at their feeders in April and May, but in the past week or so, not so many. Some had numerous orioles at the jelly feeder, but were now down to just a few. A few customers are going through jars of jelly as jelly also enjoyed by catbirds, mockingbirds, tanagers and other fruit eating birds.
Even hummingbird numbers are down according to some customers. Others may wander your way as more flowers and flowering trees come to bloom in your yard. If you still have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area.
Many of our feeder birds, including orioles, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice, are also insect eaters. When insects are available, as they are right now, birds make fewer visits to feeders and take advantage of the abundance of insects. Many birds are nesting now, and they will seek insects as a source of protein for their young birds.
Insects are also a source of water for birds and when we are lacking rain in warmer weather, birds rely more on insects for their water. If you have a bird bath, that might provide another attraction for birds to visit your yard.
First broods of bluebirds have already fledged with some birds starting a second clutch. Many other birds have already had a first brood. Some will have a second or maybe a third. It is not too late to put up a bird house. Many of our local cavity nesters have two, or sometimes three, broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, of course, house sparrows. You might also catch some first time nesters that are either late arrivals or had trouble finding a mate.
Please don’t be concerned that “your” birds are absent. Soon they are likely to return with their young fledglings to show them your feeders as a source of food. It will be fun to watch the adults feeding their young, and it is sometimes comical to watch the awkward baby birds try to fend for themselves.
If the action has slowed around your feeders, now might be a good time to venture out and watch birds away from your yard. You’ll soon see that they are doing just fine out there in the natural world.
The migration has slowed and will continue to wind down through early June. It was only a week or two ago when the warblers were highlighting the migration. A few warblers will stay to nest, but the majority have moved further north to New Hampshire and Maine to breed. But more birds will continue to move through and it may be easier to become more familiar with the birds around us with fewer birds to distract you.
Some late warblers and vireos are still moving through. Late migrants such as cuckoos and flycatchers are now arriving. Since the latter feast on flying insects, their delayed arrival ensures more available food supply. Cuckoos are seeking caterpillars and other crawling insects that should become more plentiful as the season progresses. Cuckoos are elusive birds, but it is really cool when you see them.
Late May is also the time when nighthawks, which eat insects on the wing, move through our area in the evenings. They make their presence known with a loud “peent” call as they fly overhead. They are not hawks at all, but are related to the whip-poor-will. They have an erratic flight and white bars across their wings. Look, and listen for them in the evening sky over the next few days.