Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nature Guide: Spring Birds

Spring is breeding season for most birds and at this time their colors become particularly intense. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer points out two eye-catching species you might see in our area now.

Photo by Tim Daniel, Ohio Division of Wildlife

"We are at the peak of migration season right now and one of our most striking visitors is the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula). A little smaller than a robin, males are a brilliant orange with a black head, throat, wings and tail. Females are more varied in appearance. Some are yellow with a blush of orange on their breast. Others look similar to a male, but their head is more brownish olive than black, and their body is a paler orange.

"You are most likely to see orioles along the edges of woods or in open areas with scattered trees. They often place their distinctive hanging woven nest in one of the tallest trees. Orioles feed on caterpillars, insects, spiders, fruits and nectar. Although they have little interest in bird feeders filled with seed, orioles can sometimes be attracted by hanging half an orange on a string or nail.

Photo by Bruce Tuten

"Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are another visual treat. Their head and chest are pale brown and their wings are light gray. Their belly is pale yellow and their tail is dark gray with a bright yellow tip. A waxwing's face has a narrow black mask that is neatly outlined in white. They also have a crest, but it often lies flat and is not always easy to see. Waxwings are named for the red waxy tips on their wing feathers, but they can also be hard to see. The name "Cedar" comes from the fact that these birds eat the berries off cedar trees during winter.

"Cedar Waxwings are social birds that usually travel in flocks. Often the first sign of their presence is their high, thin whistle. Waxwings are one of the few North American birds that specialize in eating fruit. You may see them sitting in a fruiting tree or shrub swallowing berries whole, or hovering in midair to pluck berries off a branch. Waxwings have even been known to become intoxicated from eating overripe berries that have begun to ferment. Flocks move frequently, so if you see waxwings someplace on one day, you probably won't see them there the next."

7 comments:

Paul said...

Hi! Great article with links to great pictures too! KEEP 'EM COMING!

BTW: The pair of brown House Wrens have returned to their nesting site under our deck awning. They were very late this year (must have used NJT), but they're very busy tending to the nest!

Karen Stray Nolting said...

Thanks, Paul W! Glad you liked it.

Great news about your House Wrens—keep us posted.

Jody said...

We see lots of cardinals (male and female) by our house (near the Smith House) and this morning I also saw a male blue jay.

Karen Stray Nolting said...

So much to see this time of year!

Sophie Clarke said...

I found one of these birds in the road, and didn't fly away (wing might be broken). I brought the bird to a friend who lives off of lake lavon. She is a vet tech who loves wild life. I want to make sure we are doing the best for this bird, so far he has eaten all the worms and grubs we put in there. If anyone has any advise please feel free to share.

Sophie Clarke said...

I found one of these birds in the road, and didn't fly away (wing might be broken). I brought the bird to a friend who lives off of lake lavon. She is a vet tech who loves wild life. I want to make sure we are doing the best for this bird, so far he has eaten all the worms and grubs we put in there. If anyone has any advise please feel free to share.

Jon Latimer said...

If it's an oriole you found, it sounds as though you are feeding the bird properly. Grubs and worms provide protein, which birds need this time of year (the breeding season). But you can vary its diet by adding insects, caterpillars, fruit, and nectar. Orioles seem especially attracted to sweetness. Try citrus fruits such as cut oranges or tangerine sections, especially if the fruit is soft and juicy. Ripe peaches, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, large grapes, and watermelon slices should also work. I hope this helps.