summer resident

Bird Bio: Yellow Billed Cuckoo

While playing golf last week I was treated to a nice long look at a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Sometimes my best birding happens when I’m not even trying.  What a beautiful and interesting bird.  I’ve seen them before but never much more than a glimpse as this species stays very well concealed in tree tops and heavily vegetated areas. 

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a common summer resident in TN arriving from Central and South America in April and departing by mid-October.  They are seen, but more often heard, in deciduous wooded areas.  Large caterpillars are its preferred food.  The tent caterpillar may be its favorite. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a long slender songbird about 12” in length.  They are tan to gray above and white below with rusty brown wing edges, and has bold white spots on the underside of its tail.  The bill is long and decurved (curves downward), the lower mandible is yellow.

While many of you may never see this bird you may be hearing it on a daily basis and not even know it.  To describe the call is a bit difficult.  It is a rapid throaty kind of knocking sound.  Click here to listen to a sound clip on allaboutbirds.org

Peak Time For Hummingbirds

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds on DR JB's clean feeder

August and September is the busiest time for hummingbirds at feeders.  By now our summer population of hummingbirds has concluded the nesting phase which explains why in the past couple of weeks you have seen a surge in interest at your feeders.  It will only get busier in the next four to five weeks.

Already, hummingbirds that have summered north of here are beginning their long journey back to central and South America to soon bring them through Tennessee.  So, not only are our hummingbirds that nested here coming to the feeders but all the migrating hummers will be sweeping through and joining the feeding frenzy.  This is the time when hummingbirds will be feeding heavily packing on as much fat as possible to sustain them during there long journey.

Food availability is thought to be the prime determinant of migratory routes.  Hummingbirds will travel where food is most dependable.  Many who study hummingbirds believe knowledge of food-rich migratory routes may actually be built into the genetic codes of these amazing little birds.  This explains why people in rural areas tend to see a lot more hummingbirds than those in more populated urban areas.  Hummers will feed heavily on late summer blooming plants like jewelweed, bee balm, and cardinal flower.  Cardinal flower and a purple variety of Salvia seem to be the preferred flowers at my house. These native plants not only provide nectar but attract insects that are critical to a hummers diet.

Since tiny insects are a major part of a hummers diet you may be interested in trying something I’ve had success with.  In the vicinity of your hummingbird feeders hang a mesh bag, or perforated container with a piece of fruit inside.  As the fruit over-ripens the fruit flies will converge.  Hummingbirds will find this “meat” feeder very interesting.  You will, too, as you see hummers hover and snatch insects.

If you have put away your hummingbird feeders because you thought you missed them this summer now is the time to get them back out and get some fresh nectar made.  The very best and busiest is yet to come.  In just one week I have seen consumption at my feeders go from 16 ounces per day to 32 oz.  Based on past years by mid-September I will likely see as much as a gallon of nectar consumed per day at my eight feeders.

Below is a video from a couple years back in September. We're compiling some new footage from this year so check back for a new video on down the line.

Bird Bio: Summer & Scarlet Tanager

Sightings of spring migratory birds continue to pour in and the action will continue for another few weeks before settling down.  Customers have seen fair numbers of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings at feeders, and other beautiful birds at birdbaths, like the Summer and Scarlet Tanager.

Male Summer Tanager

Female Summer Tanager

Summer Tanagers  are a common summer resident in middle-Tennessee, arriving around mid-April and staying until early October. Males are rose red with a pale, ivory bill.  Females are mustard yellow below, sometimes flushed with orange.  Young males have a more female appearance but may have patches of red.  Their song is robin-like, and their call is a staccato “pik-i-tuk-i-tuck”.  To hear the call of the Summer, or Scarlet Tanager, or any bird in North America, visit allaboutbirds.org and enter the name in the search bar.   You will then see a species profile of the birds with audio recordings.  Just click on the “play song” button.


Male Scarlet Tanager 

Female Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanagers, too, are a common summer resident. Males possess a stunning scarlet red plumage with black wings and tail.  Females are greenish above, yellowish below.  Listen for the very distinguishable “chip-burr” call which at times is repeated over and over.

These are not birds you would typically see at a birdfeeder, although, some people will see them come to meal worms, or fruit and jelly, or a birdbath.  They are primarily insects and fruit eaters.  A Kingston Springs customer recently showed me a picture of a young male Summer Tanager at a feeder filled with our Woodland Blend.  No doubt it was taking advantage of the shelled sunflower and/or shelled peanuts.