Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2016

For the Love of Birds: Spring is here

April 30, 2016

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and baby birds are everywhere. We have baby bluebirds, robins, cardinals, wrens, northern flickers, barred owls, ducks and many more. Some are just hatching, and some are getting ready to fledge.

We all get so excited when we see the eggs in the nest and then wait patiently for the baby birds to hatch. We watch with joy as the parent birds feed and feed the babies until they are ready to spread their wings and fly. The love doesn’t stop there, though; they continue to feed and teach the young birds where and how to find food.

We can all help measure nature’s success by monitoring the nests in our yards. Just sign up through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch program. It’s an easy four-step process that will contribute to science by tracking nesting successes and failures across the country. As a NestWatcher, you must review a code of conduct and pass a brief quiz to ensure that you use a safe monitoring protocol that doesn’t disturb the birds. What a fun project this would be to do with your family!

An eastern bluebird spreads its wings for spring.

An eastern bluebird spreads its wings for spring.

Not only are we seeing baby birds, but the Baltimore orioles and ruby-throated hummingbirds have arrived. If you don’t have your feeders out, now is the time to make the nectar and scoop the jelly. Yes, the orioles are known to drink nectar, eat oranges and mealworms, and they love grape jelly. It is quite common to hear the orioles before you see them, and we often see them on the hummingbirds’ feeder drinking the nectar.

The female oriole is the primary nest builder. She makes a tightly woven hanging nest where she lays three to six pale blue eggs with dark markings. They nest only once each season and it is quite common for them to return each year to the same territory.

The ruby-throated hummingbird’s nest is about the size of a walnut. The female builds the nest and becomes the main caretaker once the eggs are laid. The nest is very difficult to see because of the small size and the fact that it is well camouflaged with an outer layer of lichens and dead leaves. She typically lays one egg, skips a day, and then lays the second egg. It is also very common for the hummingbirds to return to the same territory year after year. Their diet consists of nectar and small insects like mosquitoes, gnats and spiders.

April and May also bring the migrating birds through Kansas. If you need help identifying any bird there is a free app from Cornell Lab. Download Merlin Bird ID on any smartphone, iPhone or iPad. After you have identified the bird it provides information about that species and you can listen to calls and songs of each bird. It is a wonderful app for adults and children to use anywhere in the United States.

Spend some time outside this spring and see how many different species of birds you can see. Happy birding!

— Colleen Winter is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited, 13222 W. 62nd Terrace, in Shawnee.

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