By Linda Clos
It’s the height of summer, and most birds are finishing up their parental duties and we are seeing the young birds at our feeders enjoying their new found freedom.
You may notice the adolescent cardinals looking scruffy in their molting stage. Soon they will be showing off their beautiful adult colors. If you see a cardinal missing all of its head feathers, don’t worry, it’s a common feather parasite and seldom causes permanent harm to the afflicted bird. They will eventually recover.
Another unusual sight that will send you scrambling for your bird identifying book is a bird with a white head or other areas of white. This is partial albinism, not unusual in the bird world. Sometimes the entire bird is white, having complete albinism. The trick, of course, is identifying it from other markers, such as beak, tail shape, etc, in order to know what kind of bird it is.
The drought and extreme heat have affected the wildlife around us. The Department of Natural Resources tells us this has created some desperation for food among the birds and animals. You may be observing more birds at your feeder and perhaps you are refilling more often than usual. Not only are the birds contending with heat and drought, the feeding frenzy you are observing was predicted by ornithologists last winter! They said that the mild winter meant seed heads were undamaged by frost, insects remained active and birds were feasting on these natural sources rather than relying on our seed feeders as much as usual in winter. The prediction was that we would see more hungry birds at our summer feeders because they would actually deplete some of the natural food. Apparently, as a result of this, they are more in need of our seed feeders than is usual for this time of year. Please keep your feeders clean and full of fresh seed to help the birds get over this “hump.” Things should level out by fall and nature’s balance should return.
Offering water in a birdbath is a kindness in the heat of summer. Some ornithologists say that water attracts more birds than seed feeders because not all birds eat seed but all birds need water. Concerned about mosquitoes using the birdbath water for their larvae? Keep the water moving! They will not use moving water for this purpose.
Some options to cause water motion in a birdbath: water Wigglers (solar or battery powered); drippers (purchase, or just hang a tin bucket of water with a small hole in the bottom over the bath); or a mister attached to your hose. Birds are attracted to baths, not only by sight, but also by sound. The sound of moving water really brings them in.
Everybirdy likes a cooling dip on a hot day!
(Backyard Birds is located at 5200 Hwy. 17 So., Unit E. Its phone number is 651-6599.)