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Bird Notes | Migrating birds taking full advantage of backyard feeders

An adult male ruby-throated hummingbird keeps a watchful eye on a hummingbird feeder from a secluded perch.
An adult male ruby-throated hummingbird keeps a watchful eye on a hummingbird feeder from a secluded perch. For The Sun News

The annual fall migration of birds continues with a steady trickle of southbound travelers coming into and through the Myrtle Beach area.

Red-eyed and white-eyed vireos have been frequent visitors where I live recently, most often seen taking advantage of American beautyberries and pokeberries.

A number of other birds are also taking advantage of this year’s berry crop, including mockingbirds, gray catbirds, brown thrashers, cardinals and bluejays.

A wide variety of wading birds continue at Huntington Beach State Park. Recent observations include a number of wood storks; a few roseate spoonbills; great blue, little blue, tricolored and green herons; great and snowy egrets; yellow-crowned night-heron; and white ibis.

Blue-winged teal; osprey; anhinga; double-crested cormorant; laughing and ring-billed gulls; along with royal, common, black, Sandwich and Forster’s terns have also been noted.

Shorebirds seen include least; Western; semipalmated and spotted sandpipers; semipalmated, Wilson’s and black-bellied plovers; killdeer; willet; and greater yellowlegs.

A number of folks have been happy to report numbers of ruby-throated hummingbirds continue to visit their backyard flowers and feeders.

Although their numbers will decline through September, some of our tiniest feathered friends pass through the area well into October, and a few will opt to spend winter here.

Keeping a feeder maintained throughout fall and winter will not prevent a hummingbird from migrating; bird migration (and other behaviors) are under hormonal control related to the amount of light during the day (photoperiod.)

While ruby-throateds are the only species to breed east of the Mississippi River, rufous, black-chinned and calliope are found each winter in South Carolina, and several other species have been documented to sojourn occasionally.

Hummingbirds have been documented along the South Carolina coast in winter for more than 100 years, so their presence here is not a recent phenomenon.

In fact, the first rufous hummingbird recorded east of the Mississippi River was at Charleston in December of 1909, well before anyone was leaving hummingbird feeders up in winter.

While keeping a feeder maintained doesn’t guarantee a wintering hummer, not having one up pretty well ensures one won’t be around.

In addition to hummingbirds, a number of other bird species will take advantage of hummer feeders, especially in winter.

Most notably perhaps are Baltimore orioles, a number of which annually spend winter in the area. Ruby-crowned kinglets, orange-crowned and yellow-rumped warblers along with chickadees and titmouses are also frequent visitors to my feeders in Conway.

Keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives, and let me know of the bird activity in your backyard.

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