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Birds are keeping still in summer’s heat

Red-shouldered hawks are becoming a common yard-nesting bird in local residential areas.
Red-shouldered hawks are becoming a common yard-nesting bird in local residential areas. Bill Stevens

It has been way too hot to do any serious birding. The ones I see out the windows are panting and drooping their wings to facilitate cooling, even in the shade.

By this time of year I have received some nice photos of nesting birds from readers and gotten several questions, some of which I will answer here:

Q. Should I clean out the old nest material from my bird box after the chicks fledge?

A. I do, for sanitary reasons. It is not unusual to find a dead baby that just didn’t make it. Unhatched eggs often occur, too. The nest material will be soiled and mites could be present. Ants may take up residence in the old material. Of course, nests in natural cavities do not get cleaned out and birds reuse the hollow repeatedly until the hole fills up. If you don’t clean it out after the initial seasonal nestings, I would at least clean it out at the end of the nesting season.

Q. Where are the hummingbirds?

A. Some folks who have hosted hummingbirds all season have had them disappear. Others haven’t seen any since April. Don’t worry. Young are fledged now, and the family groups are moving around and dispersing. By later in July I predict maintained feeders throughout the area will be seeing activity that will escalate to a peak in mid-August. Northern birds will already be on the move south and will supplement our local population.

Q. Why is this bird trying to get inside my house through the windows?

A. With the recent heat, who can blame them? Actually they are fighting their reflection in the window. It is a territorial response. The action will slowly drop off as the hormone levels recede, but it may take a few more weeks. Northern mockingbirds may continue well into fall since they are extremely territorial and set up winter territories, too.

Red-shouldered hawks are becoming a common yard-nesting bird in local residential areas. I get lots of questions about them and some excellent photos. Today’s photo is of a soon-to-be-fledged pair of hawk chicks from Huntersville.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com

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