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Bird Notes | Winter birds finding their way to the Grand Strand

Baltimore orioles are often attracted to hummingbird feeders in winter.
Baltimore orioles are often attracted to hummingbird feeders in winter.

As winter progresses and we experience more seasonal temperatures, numbers of winter birds increase in the area, as birds that may have lingered at farther northern locales move farther south in search of more favorable conditions.

Chris Hill reported finding a glaucous gull at the Horry County landfill last week, the first “white-winged” gull species of the year noted amid the more expected laughing, ring-billed, herring and lesser black-backed gulls. A large gull of far northern Arctic areas, glaucous gull is a very uncommon but annual winter visitor here. Curiously, there appears to be a dearth of great black-backed gulls this winter. The largest of the world's gull species, great black-backed gulls are impressive birds and a contingent normally frequents the landfill, and less conspicuously, area beaches in winter.

In the wake of the most recent cold snap, several folks were happy to report new visitors to their backyard feeding stations. Bob Kronberg was delighted to report a hummingbird had found his feeders. Although he has dutifully maintained a hummer feeder in winter for years, this is the first winter hummer he has seen take advantage of his offerings.

Several folks have been pleased to report finding Baltimore orioles at their backyard feeding stations, for either the first time ever or the first time this season. These wonderful birds are often attracted to hummingbird feeders, and are quite fond of grape jelly, orange sections, dried mealworms, sometimes suet and shelled peanuts.

Jim and Carol Martin were happy to find a male painted bunting has returned to their backyard seed offerings for the sixth consecutive winter. The Martins have fed a most unusual pair of feeder birds for the past 20 plus winters, namely a pair of red-shouldered hawks. The hawks take advantage of raw beef suet. You can see video of these amazing birds on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWOGaKLX_sE or do a video search for red-shouldered hawks suet.

A reminder for those feeding winter hummingbirds to make sure the feeders do not freeze at night. After a sub-freezing night, a hummingbird may need to feed first thing in the morning, sometimes even before sunrise. I've observed hummingbirds feeding at 5:30 a.m. on January mornings, well before the very first gray light of dawn. These tiny birds can handle any weather we experience as long as they have unfettered access to sufficient food. An inexpensive clip-on lamp with a 60 watt incandescent bulb mounted 12 to 18 inches from the feeder and left on during the night will keep the contents from freezing, and keep you from having to replace a feeder before dawn on a cold winter morning.