WORDS ON BIRDS
March is Critical Time for Birds
March 10, 2018
couple of weeks have been challenging for us, but it is especially
challenging for the birds. Although many of the robins and bluebirds
that we see now have been here all winter, some new spring migrants
have come into the area over the past few weeks. Just before these
most recent storms flocks of red-winged blackbirds, grackles and
cowbirds had been reported from all over the County.
Another spring migrant, the killdeer, a plover that prefers fields
and gravelly areas, started arriving a couple of weeks ago. There
have been several killdeer in the fields on Scotland Road in
Newbury, on the grasses at Plum Island Airport, and on Plum Island
near the Salt Pannes. It is hard to imagine what they might find to
eat this past week.
It seems to
happen every year this way. These early migrants, show up in late
February or early March, only to be followed by a snowstorm or other
form of extreme weather. These past weeks must have had its effect
on these birds. Why don't they just wait another few weeks before
coming to New England? Haven't they learned by now? After all, most
of our winter resident birds are still here. The winter ducks are
still on the rivers. Tree sparrows, juncos and white-throated
sparrows are still foraging for food at our bird feeders.
All around our area, I see so many empty feeders in people’s yards.
I worry for the birds that could be helped with the supplemental
food a filled feeder provides. With the extremes in weather that we
are experiencing, it is important to fill your feeders and keep suet
out for the remaining winter birds and for the arriving spring birds
as well. Fruit and mealworms will benefit bluebirds and robins, as
well as the resident Carolina wrens and mockingbirds. A heated bird
bath with fresh water draws more activity when natural water
supplies freezes up, as was the case so often this winter.
I would like to share with you once more a past National Wildlife
Federation's newsletter, in which George Harrison wrote: "March is
the most difficult month of the year for birds to find adequate food
to survive winter in most of North America. That's because the
supplies of natural food ... last year's seeds, fruits, berries and
insect eggs and larvae ... are at their lowest levels after months
of birds feeding on them. March is too early for a new crop of
seeds, fruits, berries, and insects to be available. Therefore,
birds have to work harder to find sufficient food during a month
when it is still very wintry in much of the country.
"That's why March is the best time of the year to feed birds in the
backyard. They will respond more readily to feeder foods offered in
March than at any other time of the year. Isn't it curious that in
fall ... October and November ... when natural foods are most
abundant, people take the greatest interest in feeding birds? It is
in fall when there are the greatest number of bird seed sales, bird
feeding seminars, bird store sales, and start-up backyard bird
feeding efforts. By March, the interest in bird feeding has waned,
at a time when the birds need it most.
“Though birds are not dependent on feeders for their survival
(studies have shown that birds glean 75 percent of their daily food
from the wild, even when feeder foods are available), feeding them
in March will make life a little easier for them, and under severe
conditions, may even save them from starvation.”
George is a leading bird feeding expert publishing many books and
articles. What he says about March is so true. So please keep those
seed and suet feeders full. Help those wintering birds build up
their body fat to survive what's left of the harsh weather. This
will help them travel back north when it is time. It will also help
the spring migrants that may stop at your feeders after traveling
hundreds or, sometimes, thousands of miles.
It certainly helps to lift my spirits to watch the birds at the
feeders during this cold, drab and, often, challenging month of the
year. It helps them, and it might help you as well!
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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