Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Feeders Still Active in Warm Weather
July 14, 2018
By Steve Grinley
I have had a few customers tell me that their orioles have already left. We still have a couple of few juvenile birds visiting our jelly, but I haven’t seen the bright males in the past few days. Orioles are feeding on insects to fatten themselves up for their long journey south. Baltimore orioles are Neotropical and spend the winter in Central and South America. Thus, they tend to leave a bit earlier than some of our other migrants, though some may linger into mid September. Many of our fall orioles are coming through from points further north of here. A few brave (or foolish) ones may even try to stay the winter.
We have fewer goldfinches at the thistle feeders right now. Many have started their nesting cycle, which they do late in the season so that there are ample natural seeds available to feed the young. You may see the goldfinch bring their offspring to your feeders in a few weeks, but, overall, their feeder activity may slow until later in the fall as the natural food supply gets consumed.
Hummingbirds are still going strong at feeders, fighting off each other for territorial ownership of a particular feeder. Many folks are adding additional feeders in their yard to keep the birds all happy. If you water you lawn, watch for a hummer darting in and out of the fine water spray. These little wonders love to take mist baths. After getting wet, they will sit in a nearby tree or bush for quite a while, preening their feathers to keep them in top shape.
Hummingbirds apparently aren’t the only birds that get territorial at feeders. I remember a call from a gentleman in West Newbury telling me about the house wren in his yard that won’t let the squirrels near the bird feeders! There is nothing in the feeders that would interest the house wren as they are primarily insect eaters. This one may have had a late brood in one of the nearby bird houses and was defending that territory. Wouldn’t you welcome a feisty wren in your yard to keep the squirrels away?
Many birds are still nesting, caring for their second or third brood. The cold spring that we had caused some first broods to fail, or delayed others. Tufted titmice are feeding their young, while Carolina wrens are carrying worms to their nestlings once again. Late nesting turkey families are being seen in neighborhoods with some very small ones in tow. On Plum Island, the common and least terns are still feeding their offspring and I am still seeing little “puff ball” baby killdeer and piping plover there, following the parent birds closely.
The hot weather continues to bring more birds to the bird baths. Several customers report visits from bluebirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and cedar waxwings. Water in the bird baths may need changing daily due to the heavy use they get in the summer. Adding motion to the bath with a fountain or Water Wiggler helps to aerate the water, keeping it fresher longer.
One customer told me about a crow that was using her bird bath. She had put out stale bread and a crow came in and starting crunching at it. Then it must have decided there was a better way to eat the bread so the bird picked up a piece at a time and flew to the edge of the bird bath and dropped the bread into the water. After doing this a number of times, the crow proceeded to eat the softened bread right out of the bird bath. Crows are so intelligent!
We had a visit from a Cooper’s hawk to our yard this week. We hadn’t seen one in a couple of months. I recall a customer calling to seek advice about a family of hawks that had taken over her yard. Her hawks were there every day, “eating all of her other birds.” They must have nested nearby. The young hawks were calling constantly, to be fed apparently, and the hawks were indiscriminately taking bluebirds, orioles, and other “cool” birds.
Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done in that situation. Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are protected birds, and ninety percent of their diet is small birds. Though they will take a vole or a chipmunk occasionally, they prefer birds. You can stop feeding for a short period of time and see if the hawks move on.
Suet is still the food of choice at our feeder right now. Not only are the downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers there most of the day, a family or two of titmice, a few house finches and chickadees visit daily as well. A family of chipping sparrows collects what falls on the deck below. Summer bird feeding is great fun!
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