Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Prepare for Arriving Hummingbirds and Orioles
April 20, 2019
By Steve Grinley
I have been noticing more forsythia and dogwoods in bloom around the area. More flowers are blooming in yards as the weather slowly warms. As we get more winds turning southwesterly, we should continue to see more spring migrants and the birds that will be looking for the sweet nectar that flowers provide..
A few hummingbirds are already showing up in Massachusetts. In fact, a couple has made it into New Hampshire. Now is a good time to think about putting out your hummingbird feeders. The peak migration will be in mid May, but all too often I hear stories about hummers that arrive early at the spot where “their” feeder use to be, only to find that it is not up yet. The homeowner is usually embarrassed, scrambling to find the feeder, clean it out, make the nectar, fill the feeder, and, then, put it up! That’s a long time to make a little bird wait!
Though the bulk of the hummers arrive in May, there are many April arrivals, and you may want to have your feeder up when your hummer arrives. One part sugar to three or four parts water is the recommended solution. Be sure to change the nectar every few days to keep it fresh
If you have more than hummingbird feeder, you may also want to put it out. Hummingbirds are very territorial when they feed. Often, “your” hummingbird will sit nearby and guard “their” feeder. If another hummer comes to feed, they will be chased off! So placing another feeder out of sight of the first one may allow more hummingbirds to feed.
Not far behind the hummingbirds will be the orioles, so you should begin preparing their feeders as well. These birds are also attracted to backyard feeders with nectar (one part sugar to five or six parts water) and also with grape jelly and oranges. Some folks also feed mealworms to orioles, especially as the orioles begin to nest, but orioles will also continue to enjoy jelly all summer long. There are feeders that will hold a combination of nectar, jelly and oranges.
Our most common oriole is the Baltimore oriole. The male is bright orange and black. The females are a softer orange with some brown in the wings. You may also attract the less common orchard oriole. The male of this species is a darker brick color with black. Females are more yellow than the female Baltimore. Once a pair of orioles continues to visit your feeders regularly, they may bring their offspring to the feeders later in June and July.
If you are feeding bluebirds, you may already know that mealworms attract other birds as well. Nectar, jelly, oranges and mealworms are all ways to attract some different birds to your yard this spring and summer. Catbirds, mockingbirds, tanagers, Carolina wrens, thrushes, and even some warblers might make an appearance to partake from this different menu. Speaking of bluebirds, some have already begun to nest, but more are still looking for houses and many will have second or third brood. Now that the weather is improving, it is a good time to put up more houses for them or for any of the other birds that may nest in your yard. Chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, woodpeckers and tree swallows will all nest in nesting boxes. A nesting shelf can be erected for robins, phoebes, and barn swallows. House wrens will be arriving in May and they also will take to a house hung in a nearby tree and they will delight you all summer long with their bubbly song.
Don’t forget to add water. Birds need and enjoy fresh water all through the warmer months. Add some motion to the water with a dripper, a waterfall rock, or a battery-operated “wiggler” to a bird bath to help attract more birds and to keep the water aerated and fresh. You will surely enjoy the different birds that might show up – even birds that may not otherwise partake of your bird feeders or bird houses.
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