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Bird Notes | New broods are out, learning their way in the world

Carolina wrens are among the area species with recently fledged young.
Carolina wrens are among the area species with recently fledged young. For The Sun News

The breeding season for most of our feathered friends is currently in high gear, and evidence of such may be seen all around us.

Many adult birds are busy feeding soon-to-fledge nestlings, while others already have their first broods out and about, teaching them the skills they require to survive in the world beyond the nests that have been home for the first few weeks of their lives. Those of us who provide habitat (food, clean water, shelter) for birds more and more are finding those areas filled with activity as these amazing avian creatures seek to avail themselves of all available resources essential to their survival.

It’s always interesting to observe these feathered families making their way around. At the risk of committing the sin of anthropomorphism (ascribing human characteristics to non-human entities), one can’t help noticing some behaviors among them analogous to those of our own species. While watching a pair of Carolina wrens attending their recently fledged brood last week, the frenetic activity of the parents as they grabbed mealworms from a backyard feeder to deliver as quickly as possible to hungry offspring brought to mind human parents tending their own handful of young children at mealtime. Some behaviors transcend species barriers.

The ruby-throated hummingbird breeding season is getting under way, and the first youngsters will be leaving the nests around the first week of June. Once fledged, for the first few days out of the nest, youngsters will follow their mother about learning how to find food and survive in the wide world. Once they are able to fend for themselves, their mom will chase them from her immediate territory, where she will attempt another brood.

From the end of the first week of June onward, it can be difficult to identify/distinguish between immature and female hummers visiting your feeders, as all young hummingbirds look like females when they leave their nests. It takes a while for males to begin to show any sign of what will become their colorful gorget (throat) feathers.

Young ruby-throated hummingbirds can be so similar in appearance to adult females that the only way to accurately discern the sex and age of the bird is to have it “in hand” to look at the shape of one particular flight feather and check for microscopic striations of the bill that help to determine whether or not the bird was born this year. Size is not an accurate indicator of hummingbird age, as young hummers are actually larger than their mother when they leave the nest (as is the case with most bird species).

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