Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Breeding Birds Taking Advantage of Good Weather
July 22, 2017
By Steve Grinley

     The weekend’s astronomical high tides should end the month-long scourge of the dreaded greenhead flies along our marshes and beaches. Those birders who have braved the swarms have been rewarded with flocks of shorebirds, egrets and herons. A black tern was spotted over the pans on Plum Island this past week. Several least bitterns are showing well in the North Pool, viewable from the dike behind hellcat to the delight of many birders.

     Backyard reports include second, and sometimes third broods of many species. There were several reports of bluebirds on a third nest. Even some species that normally have only one brood were either delayed, or the first nesting failed during our cold and wet early spring, have nested again. Other birds are just capitalizing on the good weather that we are now enjoying to raise another brood.

     When we first started working on our new house in Essex back in late May, the song of a house wren echoed from a neighbor’s yard. Then later in June, we didn’t hear it so much and then, eventually, not at all. But just in the past week, the song comes bubbling from the neighbor’s yard again. I hadn’t considered a second nesting, but that could be what is going on.

     Doug Chickering of Groveland points out some drama involving house wrens in his yard:

     “Over the years we have placed two Wren houses in Lois’ back yard. The older of the two is along the fence at the right side of the yard and is clearly visible from the large windows in the living room and dining area. The other one, more recent is set back against the tree line at the back of the yard. It is visible in the winter but once the Red-bud tree and Lilac bushes leaf out it disappears into the greenery. We always manage to coax a Wren family to set up in one of the houses. 

     “This year they chose the one at the back of the yard, even though they carried nesting material to both. I checked that box occasionally and carefully – carefully for I didn’t want to impose upon our guests. I am reasonably certain they successfully fledged from that house. Recently the male House Wren has been patrolling the high trees in the yard, belting out his long song with determination and enthusiasm, as he did in May. It seemed reasonable to suppose he was going for a second brood.

     “The last few days he has broken off his song and has started to go to the nesting box on the fence. Occasionally we have seen two of them putting nesting material into that box. I also noticed one of the Wrens has been accompanied by a fledgling Wren. As he/she toils away at construction, the youngster sits on the roof of the house and begs for food, fluttering his wings and opening his bill, which is still bright yellow in the interior. 

     “The adult completely ignores the insistent entreaties of the fledgling as it carries twigs and bits of other nesting material to the new home. The fledgling never gives up and the adult never gives in. I cannot be sure if I am witnessing an appalling case of child neglect or the weaning of a particularly lazy offspring. I have never seen this type of behavior before. “

     Charlie Patterson of Norwell commented on Doug’s observations: 

     “I suspect you are right on the “child neglect” issue. This year we are up to our armpits in House Wrens. I have three active houses and at least two of those are on their second brood as noted by vigorous mating behavior and nesting material seeking. We have fledglings all over the place. 

     “I noticed that the ones trying to start a second brood are basically ignoring the fledglings. The third is still feeding them and I think (all wrens kinda look alike) that they are feeding the abandoned chicks too. There is wren song everywhere!”

     I hope that you are enjoying the continued bird song in your yard, and that you have a chance to get out and enjoy the migration as well!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply