In spite of still highly variable temperatures, a number of our resident birds are forging ahead with their initial efforts of this year’s breeding season.
A pair of Carolina wrens were observed carrying nesting materials in the confines where I live in Conway last week, while a pair of neighborhood Eastern bluebirds has been noted similarly engaged. Northern cardinals are steadily increasing the fervor of their singing efforts as well as stepping up their pursuits of one another as they seek to assert individual dominance in order to claim territories for the season.
In addition to increased activities by resident bird species, some folks have mentioned the recent arrival of flocks of grackles, red-winged blackbirds and brown-headed cowbirds at their feeders. As our local birds begin their seasonal activities in earnest, numerous migrant species are beginning the first phase of their own breeding season behavior by making journeys back to their own ancestral breeding grounds.
The last week of February/first week of March is when returning ruby-throated hummingbirds start to appear along the Gulf Coast. These tiny treasures then start making their way northward, and the very earliest begin to arrive in our area in mid- to late March.
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The hummers that have spent winter in our area will have started leaving by now in order to head to their own respective breeding grounds. Years of study by numerous hummingbird researchers have shown the birds that winter here are not birds that breed here. The winter hummers leave our feeders to be replaced by hummingbirds that have wintered farther south of us.
If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to start planning a hummingbird garden for the benefit of our tiniest feathered friends. Even just a few hummingbird-favorite plants grown in pots can attract a glittering fragment of the rainbow to your backyard, and a larger collection of natural nectar sources along with a well-maintained feeder and suitable shrubs and trees for perching and insect hunting can provide sufficient habitat that will entice a hummingbird to claim your yard as its home for the season.
For a list of hummingbird plants that do well in our area, send me an email request. Remember to keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives, and let me know of the hummingbird activity in your yard.