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Bird Notes | Breeding birds packing up for winter trips

A northern mockingbird guards a shrub of soon-to-ripen pokeberries.
A northern mockingbird guards a shrub of soon-to-ripen pokeberries. For The Sun News

There are signs all around us that the annual exodus of migratory breeding birds is already under way.

The cheery songs of American robins that bred in the Conway neighborhood where I live have largely disappeared from the morning chorus, with only an occasional chuckle or whinny heard from one that may be disturbed while occupied in a search for invertebrate prey in a neighbor’s yard or along a roadside. The emphatic “wheep” calls of great crested flycatchers are heard less emanating from the treetops throughout the day here, as these wonderful birds have finished with their seasonal duties for the year and are engaged in post-breeding dispersal prior to making their way to the tropics for winter sojourns.

A few resident birds are finishing up with their last broods of the season. A few recently fledged cardinals are still being escorted occasionally to feeders by adults, where they are left to feed themselves. The same with a late pair of fledgling mockingbirds, siblings that are feeding themselves but still have a watchful parent nearby keeping an eye on them. Any day now these youngsters will be be completely on their own and making their way in the world outside their nesting area.

Chimney swifts continue to avail themselves of the structure here each day. At dusk these amazing birds seem to materialize in the skies, chittering and twittering as they forage for a last meal before nightfall. As the light fades, they begin to form an approach pattern above the confines, coalescing into a counter-clockwise swirl of birds, and individuals start to flutter downward into the structure where they’ll rest for the night. At first light the next morning, a steady stream of birds exits the structure, and in a few moments they’re gone, continuing on the way to their ultimate winter destination of Peru. A reminder to find a roost of these wonderful birds and count them for A Swift Night Out, the citizen science project coordinated by Driftwood Wildlife Association. Go to www.chimneyswifts.org for more info.

While some are beginning their southward treks, a few swallow-tailed kites may still be seen in our area. A reminder should you observe one of these wonderful birds of prey, please report your sighting here: www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php

Our tiniest feathered friends, the ruby-throated hummingbirds, are starting to relinquish breeding territories they’ve defended since spring and are engaging in post-breeding dispersal as they prepare for their epic migratory treks. Remember to keep your feeders clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives.