Neotropical migratory songbirds continue to arrive and reclaim territories for this year’s breeding season, while others pass through the area on their way to more Northern summer homes.
As the migrants headed for more northern breeding areas pass through, a number of our year-round residents are fledging their first broods of the season. In the Conway neighborhood where I live, brown thrashers and downy woodpeckers are squiring about their new families, teaching them the skills they will need to survive in the world beyond their nests.
Chimney swifts returned to the confines where I live last week, marking 46 consecutive years these amazing aves have claimed the chimney here for their seasonal obligations. Closely related to hummingbirds, these swifts are obligate insectivores and spend most of their time aloft, gleaning insects from the skies. Believed to have once chosen old tree snags as breeding sites (some may still do so in undisturbed natural areas), the swifts are an example of adaptation in the face of changes in the available habitat, as they gained their common name from the adoption of chimneys as breeding sites.
In recent years, however, their overall population has been in a state of decline due to the practice of many folks of capping their chimney, thus diminishing the number of available breeding and roosting sites for these highly beneficial little birds. An ongoing citizen science project seeks to track and monitor chimney swifts in North America, and you can help by reporting your spring sightings at www.chimneyswifts.org.
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Swallow-tailed kite sightings continue to increase in our area as these elegant raptors return from their winter vacations to claim breeding territories for the season. These kites are amazing aerialists, true masters of the wind, able to stay aloft for extended periods of time, swooping and soaring effortlessly on the wind currents. Swallow-tailed kite populations declined drastically over much of the 20th century, with their breeding range now restricted to the southeastern United States.
Our area marks the most northern breeding range of these splendid birds, and a citizen science project seeks to help biologists track and monitor the species during its time in North America. You can help by reporting any swallow-tailed kite sightings you make to www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php.
Our tiniest feathered friends, ruby-throated hummingbirds, continue to arrive and set up shop for the season. Remember to keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives.
Reach GARY PHILLIPS at 248-4595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.