Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Backyard Bird Activity Continues in Warm Weather
July 23, 2016
By Steve Grinley
I have had a number of customers tell me that their orioles have left. Orioles are feeding on insects to fatten themselves up for their long journey south. Most 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 early September. Many of our fall orioles are coming through from points further north of here. A few brave ones may even try to stay the winter, but it is likely that they just have some wires crossed and don’t know any better.
We have fewer goldfinches at the thistle feeders right now. Many have begun 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, but, overall, their feeder activity may be less 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 them all happy. If you water you lawn, keep an eye out 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 that a gentleman from West Newbury told me about a 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 a late brood in one of the nearby houses and was defending that territory. Wouldn’t you like that feisty wren in your yard to keep the squirrels at bay?
Many birds are still nesting, caring for their second or third brood. Grackles are feeding their young and robins are carrying worms to their nestlings in a second or third brood nest in the shrubs. Turkey families are being seen in neighborhoods with some pretty small fledglings. On Plum Island, the common and least terns are still feeding their offspring and I am still seeing little “puff ball” baby killdeer there, following the parent birds closely.
The hot weather continues to bring more birds to the bird baths. The water in the bird bath here at the store needs changing daily due to the constant use that it gets. Several customers reported visits from bluebirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, woodpeckers, and even turkeys! One customer told me about a comical fledgling woodpecker trying to keep its balance near the edge of the bath!
Another 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 bath. Those crows are so intelligent!
Another customer called seeking advice about a family of hawks that had taken over her yard. The hawks were there every day, “eating all of her other birds.” They must have nested nearby. The young hawks were calling constantly, crying to be fed apparently, and the adult 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. It wouldn’t be so bad if they took only pigeons, house sparrows and starlings, but I am sure that they don’t taste the difference, and they take whatever they can catch!
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