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Bird Notes | Catbirds team up on grackle in show of protection

This juvenile gray catbird has a host of adults keeping an eye on it in case trouble appears.
This juvenile gray catbird has a host of adults keeping an eye on it in case trouble appears. For The Sun News

With the bonanza of bird youngsters currently out and about in the Myrtle Beach area, it’s difficult not to see a bird wherever you might be.

Where I live in Conway, the most prolific batch of youngsters appears to be those of the local resident Northern cardinals. It’s unquestionably heartwarming to watch an adult cardinal cracking open sunflower seeds and collecting the meats, then darting into a nearby shrub where its latest progeny is hidden away to provide sustenance for its feathered progeny.

Equally of interest is to watch over time as the youngster(s) are encouraged to approach closer to food sources and attend feeding stations, eventually taking responsibility for feeding themselves.

Equally impressive as the diligence of birds in attending to the feeding of their offspring is the attention to protecting their young from potential problems that might be caused by birds, especially adults, of other species.

Recently I observed an adult gray catbird that had brought a fledgling to a small stash of dried mealworms, and after encouraging the youngster to feed itself, the adult hopped beneath an adjacent shrub to forage in the leaf litter below.

Suddenly a flurry of activity and vocalizations erupted from the porch and I was drawn to the door to see what was happening. A male common grackle had appeared, and sensing the potential danger to the catbird youngster, four adult catbirds had materialized and were engaged in a mob attack on the grackle, who quickly realized it might be more expeditious to visit at a later time.

While mobbing of predators is a fairly common behavior for a variety of bird species, e.g. jays mobbing hawks and owls, same for mixed flocks of titmouses, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, etc., this was my first observation of two different pairs of catbirds cooperating to drive away an unwanted intruder.

There’s always something to learn about our feathered friends, and the amazing lives they lead.

Hummer activity

The first juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird of the season was observed last week here in the confines, so the numbers of these miniscule marvels will start increasing at area flowers and feeders, as the next few weeks are the peak time for hummingbirds to fledge in our area.

Remember to keep your feeders 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 backyard.

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