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Bird Notes | Grand Strand’s breeding birds begin to set up house

Female ruby-throated hummingbirds are now arriving throughout our area.
Female ruby-throated hummingbirds are now arriving throughout our area. For The Sun News

As spring migration continues, more of our seasonal resident breeding birds arrive to claim territories for the impending breeding season.

Among the recent returnees to my Conway neighborhood are gray catbirds, great crested flycatcher and chimney swifts. Several folks have been happy to report finding indigo bunting and blue grosbeak visiting their backyard feeding stations, and a few have been privileged to find a rose-breasted grosbeak visiting. While indigo bunting and blue grosbeak are breeding birds in our area, “rose-beaks” are merely stopping off to take advantage of feeders containing sunflower seed, as their breeding areas are far to the north of us.

In addition to indigo buntings, the first painted buntings of the year are finding their way back into our area. Arguably the most beautifully plumaged bird to breed in North America, our coastal subspecies has been in a severe state of decline, primarily due to loss of appropriate habitat. Painted buntings prefer maritime scrub-shrub areas, the transition zones between marshes and upland areas. As those areas disappear due to human alteration of the landscape, so do these amazingly beautiful little birds.

It will be a sad day when the sweet song and brilliant plumage of this wonderful bunting is no longer evident along our north coastal area. If you’ve never seen one of these most striking of nature’s creations, I’d encourage you to make a trip soon to Huntington Beach State Park’s nature center and watch for them at the feeders there. The first males were reported from the park last week.

Swallow-tailed kite sightings are on the increase in our area, as these amazing birds of prey return to North America from their tropical winter sojourns. Our area marks the northernmost edge of their North American breeding range, and their occurrence and distribution are of significant import to state and federal wildlife agencies as they attempt to monitor species. Please take a moment to report your sightings at www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php

Our tiniest feathered friends, ruby-throated hummingbirds, continue their return to the area for their seasonal reproductive duties. Remember to keep your hummingbird feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives. In addition to well-maintained feeders, a collection of hummingbird-favored plants will entice more of these amazing aves to spend time in your own backyard. Thanks to all who have reported their first hummer sightings thus far.

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