|Our Feathered Friends - Feb. 22|
|Wednesday, February 22, 2012|
By KAREN FRANKLIN
I have no doubt that Mother Nature is not only wreaking havoc on us but also on our feathered friends who are wondering if it is winter or spring. We have several days of mild weather only to be reminded that it is officially still winter by a few really cold, yucky days. Then we go back to rather mild days and so the cycle continues. I’m personally ready for spring to kick in full-time! I’m also hoping to get some birding in with Ray when the weather warms up.
Spring is a great time to catch migrating birds who are heading back to the breeding grounds for the summer months. Of course this will also mean the loss of our winter birds like Juncos, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow and more as they too start to migrate back to their summer territories.
I was noticing in my book that the majority of Warblers in our area are summer residents only. One main exception is the Yellow-Rumped Warbler who actually spends the summer in Canada and our north-western states but is a winter resident in our area. The Warblers are a group of birds I am not familiar with, but I hope to learn more about them A few years back I was honored to see a Prothonotary Warbler out at Gail Morris’ house.
Prothonotary Warblers have a bright yellow body and bluish-grey wings. They are rather small at only 5 ½ inches but have a long black bill. They are insect eaters and do not care for seed, so they are rarely seen at bird feeders. They prefer to nest on the edge of a body of water, which just so happens to be where Gail is located, off a “finger” of Old Hickory Lake.
While out birding with Ray back in the fall of 2010, we saw a Yellow Warbler. While mostly yellow, the males have reddish streaks on their beasts. Their back feathers are blackish on the edges. They too are very small at only 5 inches in size. They also prefer insects like caterpillars, moths, aphids and beetles.
Tanagers are another bird that spends their summers in our area. Both the Summer Tanager and the Scarlet Tanager are commonly confused with the Cardinal but lack the crest, which is an easy identifier. The male Summer Tanager is solid red, while the male Scarlet Tanager is red with black wing and tail feathers. The females of both species are a dull yellow, but the female Scarlet Tanager has darker wings and tail feathers like the male. You are also more likely to see the Summer Tanager at your feeder but only if you offer fruit, bread crumbs or peanut butter. Otherwise, both species prefer wild berries and insects.
Another colorful bird in our area during the summer is the Indigo Bunting. While on the small side at 5 ½ inches, the male has a beautiful indigo/blue body with just a touch of black on his wing and tail feathers. The female is a mix of cinnamon, brown, and tan with nothing to really distinguish her. They will visit feeders for seed mix and fruit.
I am hopeful that this spring and summer I will be able to mark a few more of the Warblers off my “to see” list. Hopefully you can too! Again, let us know what is at your feeders, especially as the migratory season kicks in.