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Bird Notes | Some visitors stop to feed, leave to breed

Prothonotary warblers are returning to their customary swamp forest breeding areas.
Prothonotary warblers are returning to their customary swamp forest breeding areas. For The Sun News

While returning migrant birds make their way back into our area, a number of winter species continue to avail themselves of backyard bird food offerings.

Several folks have reported American goldfinches and even a few pine siskins taking advantage of black oil sunflower and Nyjer, and more than one person has inquired as to whether the birds will breed here. Though a few goldfinches breed in the upper Piedmont and Upstate, they’re not breeding birds in the coastal plain where we are (pine siskins are far northern breeding birds).

The goldfinches currently visiting our area are northbound migrants, having spent winter farther south of us. It’s not uncommon to see goldfinches in our area through the end of April.

White-throated, chipping and even a few dark-eyed junco sparrows also continue to avail themselves of backyard feeding stations. While most of their ilk have already headed northward toward their customary breeding areas, a few will straggle through the end of the month (although a few chipping sparrows breed in our area, especially on some local golf courses).

Baltimore oriole numbers are steadily decreasing as these beautiful winter birds leave to make their way back to customary breeding areas farther north. Returning orchard orioles already have begun to replace them and are equally fond of hummingbird feeders and grape jelly during their own breeding season tenures.

Among the warbler species currently making their way back into and through our area are Prothonotary warblers. A seasonal resident of forested wetlands, the Prothonotary is one of our most brilliant songbirds, cloaked in bright yellow with dark wings. Known in Audubon’s day as the “golden swamp warbler,” this tiny songster prefers to spend its time beneath the canopy of dense swamp forests, where its “sweet, sweet, sweet” songs reverberate through summer. A rarity among warbler species, the Prothonotary is a cavity-nesting bird and prefers sites located above water. Rarely, but occasionally, a pair may use a nest box located in close proximity to a forested wetland.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds continue to make their way back into and through our area. Reports are coming in daily of first-observed hummers at backyard feeders from Georgetown to Sunset Beach, N.C. Remember to keep your feeders clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives (sucrose, or plain white sugar, is the birds’ preferred sugar), and let me know of the first hummingbird in your backyard.

Reach GARY PHILLIPS at 248-4595 or carolinensis@yahoo.com.