Words On Birds 06-07-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Nesting Season is Upon Us
June 07, 2024
By Steve Grinley
     Migration is slowing, as most of the transient birds have already moved through our area. Most of the local birds are settling down to nest if, in fact, they haven’t already done so. Some late winter nesters, especially some of the owls, have already fledged young. The baby owls will be dependent on their parents for the next couple of months until they learn to fend for themselves. 
     Bald Eagles are nesting once again along the Merrimack River in Amesbury and Haverhill, the Parker River in Newbury and the Mile River in Rowley. Ospreys are back at their platforms in Salisbury, Plum Island and throughout the Great Marsh down to Essex and West Gloucester. Red-tailed hawks are also early nesters and some young hawks may have fledged by now. Like the owls, eagle and hawk youngsters will be dependent on their parents for several months.
     Great blue herons have young in rookeries and in isolated nests in Salisbury, Byfield, Georgetown and Boxford. Piping plovers and least terns are nesting on the beaches of Plum Island and Ipswich. The first killdeer and willet chicks are appearing on Plum Island as well.
     It is time to make way for ducklings as mallards, gadwall and teal already have their families following them around. Canada geese are also caring for their yellow goslings in Newbury, in the Newburyport Industrial Park, and on the Parker River Refuge on Plum Island (to name a few – there are a lot of geese this year!)    
     Some early nesters such as bluebirds, Carolina wrens and robins may already be on their second brood. Reports of these second broods are coming in for several area communities. In fact, these birds may sometimes have a third brood.
     Some of our May migrants including hummingbirds, house wrens, Baltimore and orchard orioles, gray catbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks and yellow warblers are busy building their nests and some may already be sitting on eggs. These birds are likely to raise only one family each year.
     One customer told me about two families of house wrens in her yard. House wrens will build several “dummy” nests in an area before the female decides on one. The males are very territorial and the fact that there are two nesting wrens so close to each other indicates that it may be one male with two females. Polygamy in wrens is well documented.
     If you continue to have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area. Many more of these birds move further north to New Hampshire and Maine to nest. Local nesting orioles continue to supplement their diet with nectar and jelly, but many birds will turn to insects. Insects provide the protein necessary for the young birds’ development, so the orioles concentrate on providing insects to their newly hatched offspring. 
     The parent orioles will bring their young to your jelly and orange feeders into the summer. I have many customers that go through jars of jelly and bags of oranges during the summer months. Catbirds, mockingbirds, and even robins will also feed on the grape jelly.
     Purple martins have returned to their nesting colonies and have begun nesting. However, it is the first year males arriving in June that could still establish a new colony. If you live on or near water, now would have been a good time to try to attract these birds. Newer colonies have appeared in Newbury, Salisbury and Seabrook, New Hampshire. Purple martins have even taken up residence in tree swallow houses in the marshes of Seabrook in the past.
     Goldfinches are starting to compete for perches at the finch feeders as they build up their energy to prepare to nest. They nest in midsummer, late June and July, usually in small trees or shrubs and not in bird houses. They wait until later in summer when there will be more natural seed around for the young once they fledge.     
     Many of our local cavity nesting birds have two, or sometimes three, broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, of course, house sparrows. Though some birds have had their first brood already, it is not too late to put up a bird house. You might catch some on their second or third brood, or first-time nesters that are either late arrivals or had trouble finding a mate, that will welcome another residence.
     Sharing your yard with birds and their offspring by providing more housing not only helps the birds, you will enjoy their company all summer long!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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