WORDS ON BIRDS
Autumn Bring Change to Backyard Bird Scene
By Steve Grinley
Autumn isnít here yet, but we hear the meteorologists tell that the
beginning of September marks the start of meteorological fall. With
the children back to school and the days getting shorter and cooler,
we know that changes are on the way. I have talked about the
migrating egrets, shorebirds and nighthawks in recent columns and
the songbirds, have started to migrate as well. The songbird
migration will continue into September and October and will keep
things interesting in the field.
what is happening in the backyard these days? Most of the orioles
have left, and many of the male hummingbirds. A few female and
juvenile hummers are lingering, but most will be gone, and the
remaining hummer migrants should pass through by the end of
September. Occasionally a few strays show up at nectar feeders past
October and they should be checked carefully, as they could be a
different species from our ruby-throated hummingbird. You may want
to keep your nectar feeders up at least another few weeks, or beyond
if you are adventurous. If you a hummingbird that looks different,
please let us know!
goldfinches will soon lose their bright yellow and black coloration
and will soon be an olive green, like the females. There seem to be
more finches around now than there were a month or two ago, with
many juvenile birds coming to the feeders now. You will want to
offer them thistle seed, finch mix or sunflower seed to keep them
around all fall and winter.
do put out thistle, keep an eye out for migrating indigo buntings
the next couple of weeks. Males are a stunning indigo blue, but the
females and young are a light brown, and, at quick glance, easily
confused with a female house sparrows.
Speaking of sparrows, it is a good time to carefully check over
those sparrows that are at your millet or mixed seed feeders. I know
that we think of sparrows as "little brown jobs" and they are
challenging to tell apart, but fall is the time when more unusual
birds show up with them. We have had both dickcissels and
clay-colored sparrows more than once at our feeders here at the
store. The clay-colored sparrows are smaller, paler and have a
striped head, with a light stripe through the crown. The dickcissel
is more similar to a house sparrow, but often has varying amounts of
yellow on its chest.
Also showing up
in September will be the more predictable white-throated sparrows
and, those early "harbingers of winter," juncos! They feed on millet
and mixed seed on the ground under your feeders, but will often feed
on a tray or other mixed seed feeder. Juncos will even occasionally
feed on thistle. The wintering tree sparrows will arrive shortly
thereafter, and you may catch migrating white-crowned, Lincolnís, or
my favorite fox sparrows at your feeders.
Red-breasted nuthatches may migrate to our area in the fall. These
birds are a bit smaller than our resident white-breasted nuthatch
and a bit cuter, or at least I think so. They have a deeper blue
back, more red color underneath, and a dark line through the eye.
Their call sounds like a "baby" nuthatch. They will come to
sunflower feeders and also to suet, doing the same upside down
routine as their larger cousins.
Many folks will be glad to see the grackles leave soon, but many of
our summer birds actually stay year round. Cardinals, chickadees,
titmice, fiches and woodpeckers will all visit your seed feeders and
suet throughout the autumn and winter.
If you haven't started your fall bird feeding yet, now, with cooler
weather approaching, is a good time to set up your feeding stations.
Put out seed and suet for these resident birds, as well for the
migrating birds that are already starting to move through. With all
the dry weather that we have been having, also be sure to keep fresh
water available for the birds. Many migrants will stop for a drink,
and you are likely to see birds at your bird baths that don't come
to your feeders. Not all birds eat seed, but most need water.
As the colder weather approaches, you
might also think about a heated bird bath, or a heater for your
existing bird bath, as birds especially need fresh water when
natural sources become frozen. I know, it isn't even truly autumn
yet, but you know New England weather. Best to be prepared!
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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