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Flying Colors: Birds Do Not Take The Summer Off

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Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.

Bags packed. Tickets in hand. Cooler filled. Kids buckled in. It is a fun time in the summer.

As we plan for those exotic vacations around the country and even overseas, we may forget that the wild birds in our backyards do not take the “Summer Off!” They are actually incredibly active. From dusk to dawn, they are still:

Breeding — the goldfinches are just starting.

Feeding their young — some birds such as hummingbirds and house wrens are having second broods.

Teaching the fledglings how to go it alone. Remember the first-time baby ate spaghetti on their own? Yeah it is like that with the baby birds on suet!

All of this activity takes a lot of energy. That energy burns up food. They need to replenish that food.

You see, bird feeding isn’t just a winter hobby. By continuing to feed your birds in spring and summer, you have the greatest opportunity to attract the widest variety of birds to your yard and feeders.

Access to abundant and healthy food supplies is important to birds… regardless of the season. Bird feeders provide a portion of these important nutritional needs for your backyard birds throughout the year. Birds with access to backyard feeder benefit greatly from their ability to spend less time foraging for food and more time engaging in activities that enhance their health and safety.

Bird feeding isn’t just a winter hobby. Many people stop feeding in late spring and early summer, thinking the birds have plenty of food. That is not true. Your yard, if somewhat untamed, will explode with food in the late summer and early fall. Right now, most gardens are still growing.

So, before you hit the pedal to the metal and crank up those tunes, load up your feeders. If only for a few days your birds have their restaurants open, you will be helping them. There is no need to worry that your birds will go away if there is not food. They will try out different sources of food. But I guarantee you that when you turn on the light of your feeder restaurants that you are open for business again, they will be calling to you for reservations.

Something New

Each month, we will be providing “Nature Notes” to you. These notes will give to you some of the highlights of the month as to what nature is doing.   From migration to breeding to singing to shooting stars — we will provide for you a checklist that you can use to explore some of the exciting events that will be occurring. One of my favorite moments of summer is when the fireflies come out. My yard, for the past three weeks, has been exploding with their light show. Now I know summer is on!

I did not really need the asphalt scorching heat, oxygen sucking humidity and flaming hot ball of fire in a cloudless sky to tell me summer was on!

Here are some highlights for you to start watching for in July:

  • NABA national butterfly count.
  • Cicadas start calling.
  • Watch local ponds for immature herons and bitterns.
  • First brood of immature hummingbirds begin to show up at nectar feeders early in the month.
  • Thistle plants begin to seed; goldfinches gather thistledown for nesting material.
  • Blackbirds begin to flock and appear at feeders.
  • Listen for the feeding screeches of young barred and great horned owls.
  • Shorebird migration starts.
  • Butterfly milkweed in bloom. Look for monarch butterfly adults, eggs and larva.
  • Look for hummingbirds feeding on trumpet creeper, jewelweed and cardinal flowers.
  • Delta aquarids meteor shower peaks in late-July.

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