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Bird Notes | Grand Strand birds showing signs of breeding season

Baltimore orioles are among the winter birds beginning to tune up prior to departure for the breeding season.
Baltimore orioles are among the winter birds beginning to tune up prior to departure for the breeding season.

With spring officially just a few weeks away, many of our local resident birds are showing signs of the upcoming breeding season.

At morning especially, but also throughout the day, the voices of familiar breeding birds can be heard as they begin their annual spring rituals.

Northern cardinals, tufted titmouses, Carolina chickadees, Northern mockingbirds, Carolina wrens and even an American robin have joined the dawn chorus of late here where I live in Conway. There's a sense of comfort and continuity in their actions, as we shed the cold gray mantle of winter and look forward to spring's promise of the renewal of life, with hopes for better days ahead.

The lengthening of days also affects our wintering feathered friends, which is evidenced in their own increased song activity and more aggressive behaviors. Some members of the winter oriole flock here are starting to vocalize a bit, as well as challenge one another around the feeders. Pine and yellow-rumped warblers, white-throated, chipping and dark-eyed junco sparrows are tuning up their voices in preparation for their own impending breeding season rites on farther northern breeding grounds.

A few folks have begun to experience a normal spring occurrence with Eastern bluebirds attacking their reflections in windows. Bluebirds, cardinals and mockingbirds are most notorious for this behavior (although other species engage in it as well.) Apparently birds do not have a concept of their reflected image, and perceive the reflections as a rival bird in their territory. As such, they attempt to drive the intruder away, often with fierce intent. The solution is to remove the reflected image for at least a period of time by covering the area or otherwise breaking it up. Once the “other bird” is gone for a few days, and as they become more engrossed in their seasonal duties, the birds will go about their normal reproductive behaviors.

While a number of winter hummingbirds continue to visit backyard feeders in our area, soon the first of “our” hummingbirds will be returning from their more tropical winter sojourns to begin their seasonal duties. Research has demonstrated that hummingbirds who winter here are not “our” breeding birds, and will soon depart for their own breeding grounds farther north or west of us. The first of area breeding ruby-throateds (the only hummingbird species known to breed East of the Mississippi River), start to arrive in mid-March, with the bulk coming in April and early May.

Keep you feeders clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water, and let me know when the first “glittering fragment of the rainbow” arrives in your backyard.