The numbers of colorful songbirds being spotted by birdwatchers this year has exploded! Even neighborhood feeders and gardens are attracting many species not often seen in our area. During the fall migration, the birds’ plummage is battered from the breeding season and they are molting into their less colorful winter plummage. But during the spring migration everyone is bright and beautiful in their new breeding finery. There were several notable releases of birds whose migration was delayed while they rehabilitated at the Wildlife Center.
The first is a female Painted Bunting. The male Painted Bunting has a deep royal blue head and a rosy breast. Populations of Painted Buntings continue to be under pressure from captive bird dealers that sell them as pets. These birds are very secretive and prefer brushy thickets. They prefer to eat insects, but when insects aren’t plentiful, they switch to seed.
The next was a Kentucky Warbler. A small warbler, the Kentucky Warbler crosses the Gulf of Mexico non-stop between their wintering grounds in Southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America to their nesting grounds in central and eastern United States. The top surfaces are olive and the chest and under parts are yellow. The differences between the male and female warbler isn’t as dramatic as the Painted Bunting, females and juveniles have a more olive coloration and smaller or missing black marks below the eyes. Sometimes it is misidentified as a male Common Yellowthroat which has a white belly.
To help these birds on their way or support those that have decided to make the Gulf Coast their home the Wildlife Center has several suggestions.
Change birdbath water daily and every few days rinse with a 10% bleach and water solution. This will prevent the spread of diseases especially a parasite named, Triconosis.
Provide good quality mixed seed and make sure that the feeder is clean and there is no mold. Some birds (and squirrels) prefer oiled sunflower seed and others prefer striped sunflower seed. Strategies can be found under the “Need Help” tab for those of you that don’t want squirrels to raid your bird feeders.
Insectivores can’t feed if there are no insects – it is hard to hold back the insecticide when your beautiful flowers or tomatoes are being mutilated – but if you spot spray insecticide instead of spraying everything you may find a balance that keeps your gardens beautiful and attracts insectivore song birds. One rehabilitator found that with the exception of ant control, she was able to forgo all insecticides and now has many more song birds visiting her yard.
Many birds require cavities for nesting. This need can be fulfilled with nesting boxes. Be sure to pay attention to the recommended opening size, location and height requirements.
Take a moment to scan the trees and bushes, you will be rewarded by the jewels of spring migration.