I have written about some subtle signs of spring migration, courtship and nesting among our local birds, but things are accelerating now.
I have noticed just this week that a resident brown thrasher has begun singing in the mornings around my place. I suspect it will pair up and nest in some honeysuckle thickets nearby. American woodcock have been performing their elaborate courtship flight displays for weeks now; I would not be surprised if some chicks have already hatched.
Migratory movement will increase steadily until it peaks around the first of May, and then quickly diminish about three weeks later. Singing, courtship and nesting will also steadily increase.
Look closely at any crows that might be flying overhead. Both fish crows and common crows are carrying sticks into pine trees for nest construction. Just this week I got a report of a great horned owl on a nest; then I went out and located another one myself.
Some mourning doves are incubating eggs in their flimsy, see-through excuse for a nest. Brown-headed nuthatches are busy excavating nest cavities in rotting pine trunks. Local woodpeckers are drumming on hollow trees or perhaps your neighbor’s gutter, proclaiming territories and attracting mates.
I have gotten several reports of the first purple martin male arrivals into our area. These are known as scouts. The females and the rest of the breeding males will follow in a few weeks.
If you have a pair of red-shouldered hawks in your neighborhood, it is likely you are well aware of their courtship cries. They are perhaps the loudest breeding birds in our area. They might just nest in your front yard. If you have an abandoned outbuilding nearby, you might notice a pair of vultures, black or turkey, hanging around. They readily move in after the humans move out. And great blue herons have refurbished last year’s nests and have moved back in.
Eastern bluebirds are beginning to show interest in nest boxes; sticking their heads in to assess the suitability. And if you have a bluebird or cardinal pecking your windows, you can be sure there will be a nest nearby shortly.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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