As spring moves forward and the annual migration of birds northward winds down, the focus of bird aficionados shifts from passing migrants to local breeding birds.
May and June are the prime months for fledging of this year’s crop of birds’ reproductive efforts, and many of our earliest arrived Neo-tropical migrant breeding birds are fledging their first broods, while some resident birds have already finished up with their first broods of the season and are well into their second nesting attempts. Harried feathered parents may currently be seen throughout our area with youngsters in tow as they seek to meet their offspring’s nutritional needs while teaching them the skills they need to survive in the world beyond nests that have been home for the first few weeks of their lives.
Those of us who maintain bird feeders year-round often have the opportunity to observe these young families interacting as well as watch youngsters developing their skills while they investigate their surroundings. Birds are intelligent creatures and learn both by observation as well as by result of their own curious investigations. Maintaining feeders during this time of year provides another food resource for our birds, and the youngsters learn the location of places to find a quick meal, which turns them into regular year-long visitors to backyard feeding stations.
A few folks have wondered about the “disappearance” of their hummingbirds of late. These tiny treasures haven’t disappeared, but are engaged in their primary activity of the season, reproduction.
Females are busy with nesting duties, and many are already feeding tiny nestlings. Their feeding forays are quick affairs now to gather as much food as quickly as possible and deliver it to their developing young. In order for the hummer chicks to develop, she must provide them with a considerable amount of tiny insects along with nectar/sugar water to meet their dietary requirements. As a result, her visits to feeders are necessarily brief, usually just to hover for a few seconds as she takes a quick sip or two.
While males usually guard nectar-rich feeding territories, their dietary requirements also necessitate foraging for tiny insects. In addition, males are looking for females, and may wander a bit now in search of potential mates.
This is also the time of year that natural hummingbird food sources are becoming more common. Like other birds, hummers as a rule will prefer natural food over the items we provide, and as such spend more time visiting nectar-producing flowers rather than feeders. Unless one sits and continually watches a feeder, it may be difficult to catch a glimpse of one of our tiniest feathered friends now making a brief visit for a quick snack.