spring notes

Spring Notes

With spring almost here there is so much to anticipate happening with regard to birds.  Many of our year round resident songbirds have begun courtship.  Currently there’s a lot of singing and territorial squabbles going on.  We’ve had some reports of the always eager Carolina Wrens building nests.  If you haven’t seen any Bluebird activity at your nest boxes yet don’t despair, there’s still plenty of time.  Although some Bluebirds will start nesting in March the majority of Bluebirds tend to begin actual nesting closer to mid-April.  Other cavity nesters like Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Nuthatches, and Tufted titmice tend to start a little earlier.  Make sure you’ve done some maintenance on your nestboxes and cleaned out old debris from last year’s nests.  The old nest debris can attract insects, like ants, that can be a major problem for baby birds. 

Much More on Bluebirds Coming in the Weeks to Follow…

Male Bluebird. Photo by Eli.

Photo by Eli.

Migration is not in full swing yet, however, any day now Purple Martins and other members of the Swallow family will be moving into and through TN.  Tree Swallows, Rough-winged Swallows, Barn and Cliff Swallows are among the earlier migrants to return.  Every day birds from Central and South America are moving closer to middle TN.  By the last week of March and first week of April the first hummingbirds of the year will begin arriving or passing though on the way to their summer breeding destination. That’s right! The first Ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive are just about 5 weeks away. For birdwatchers this is a most exciting time. Warblers, Vireos, Tanagers, Indigo buntings, Orioles, and Flycatchers will soon be pouring into and through middle TN.

Tree Swallow.

White-eyed Vireo. Photo by Eli.

Look for Rose-breasted grosbeaks and Indigo buntings to start arriving at seed feeders around mid-April through mid-May.  Rose-breasted grosbeaks especially like platform feeders but will manage very well on tube type feeders, too.  They really like sunflower and safflower.  Indigo Buntings also like a variety of seeds but seem to prefer feeding on the ground.  Keep the suet feeders going and you will be amazed by the increase in suet consumption well into the spring.  Woodpeckers take great advantage of the suet while they are nesting.  Raising young is high energy work and the suet is an easy high energy food source.  I typically see suet consumption double at my house during the spring and early summer months.

Adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Indigo Bunting. Photo by Eli.

Get your feeders cleaned up and your binoculars ready. Clean feeders are very important in reducing the chances of avian disease like avian conjunctivitis which is very common among the finch population.  A good cleaning with warm soap and water or a mild bleach solution is recommended.  Speaking of finches, have your Goldfinches suddenly disappeared? Or suddenly appeared?  Are you seeing them beginning to change to their spring-summer plumage?  Goldfinch numbers at your feeders can change daily during the early spring as there is a lot of movement among flocks. Don’t be surprised or think you’ve done something wrong if you don’t see finches for a few weeks.  This is normal spring activity for Goldfinches.