For those of you who have been lamenting your lack of hummingbirds this spring and summer, your wait is over or soon will be. I have been getting reports of an almost overnight increase in activity and sugar water consumption. Most of the birds will be adult females or similar looking juveniles. The activity level will only increase over the next few weeks as birds vie for their place at the table. Let the hummingbird wars begin!
The increase in action is in part due to post-breeding dispersal. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are not the only species that do this. For the past week, I have been seeing a pair of Eastern kingbirds perched on a dead limb projecting out of the top of a large sweet gum in my front yard. Kingbirds do not nest in my neighborhood; they prefer more open or semi-open habitat, but I guess the presence of some perches to hunt from and a pond to provide flying insects satisfies the pair’s requirements for now. I am assuming nesting is over for this couple and they are doing some traveling now that the chicks are gone. They are a quarrelsome couple though, frequently giving their characteristic buzzy zeet notes, often in a rapid-fire musical series.
Other songbird species are dispersing from their breeding territories now and wandering around before pushing south as fall migration slowly picks up. I had an American redstart in my yard this week, another species that does not nest close by. More warblers will be joining up with chickadee family flocks to forage and it is worth giving a quick look to see if anything different is hanging out with the feeding flocks now. If you can stand the heat. I’m looking forward to the first cool fronts of August for sure.
One bird that is now in the middle of the first nesting of the year is the American goldfinch. I have been hearing these bright yellow finch’s complex songs all over now. They are our areas latest nesters, waiting until there are plenty of seeds to feed their chicks. American goldfinches are unique in that their chicks can derive all the protein they need from seeds, predominantly thistles. The adults do not have to hunt down insects to sustain their chicks’ health. They like to nest in ornamental trees in parking lot berms and roadside planting strips even in the uptown Charlotte area.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.