John Sterling Poole
That Migratory Time of the Year Again!
With summer winding down, birders will start to see quite a few changes occurring at their feeders. The end of summer and beginning of fall are critical periods for migratory birds. Whether they are coming or leaving, you want to make sure your feeders are stocked up!
The two most notable birds that will leave our area are the painted buntings and the hummingbirds, both of which are journeying down south. While it is always tough to say goodbye to these beautiful birds, we have to send them off with their best wing forward! Hummingbirds, in particular, have a massive journey ahead of them. That is why you need to make sure you have the freshest nectar in those feeders. Hummers are building up muscle, fat, and energy reserves to prepare for the long flight. Providing fresh nectar can really make a difference for them. Some folks have told me that they leave rotten fruit to attract fruit flies which the hummingbirds will then eat. I will leave it up to your discretion if you want to deal with that!
For the buntings, you just need to keep feeding them that millet! A lot of folks see a sharp increase in bunting activity around this time, so be sure to keep the feeder filled.
For both the buntings and the hummingbirds, their exit can either be speedy or slow. If you find that your birds are hanging around, you must keep feeding them. Some birds will spend the whole winter here. If they do, they are relying on you to be their main source of food. A common misconception is that if a single hummingbird is sticking around after all the others have left, then the best step to take is remove away the food. Theoretically, that should prompt the bird to head on. That is not necessarily true, however. Birds are much more particular than that. Hummingbirds migrate in groups, which means that that single bird probably will not catch back up with a group. Sometimes the safest step a bird can take is staying put.
If you have noticed not hummingbirds or buntings at your feeders for two weeks, then it is safe to pull them inside and give them a good clean!
After that, you will need to then put out your nyjer feeder and your oriole feeder! Goldfinches make their way down to the Lowcountry around October. Unfortunately in winter the goldfinch loses its vibrant yellow and instead becomes a dulled brown. There are usually traces of yellow at the end of their feathers. Just because they are not yellow, however, does not mean you should not invite them to your yard! Goldfinches are friendly birds who will share space with each other and other species. These finches also can swamp a feeder at one time! Be sure that you have fresh thistle (also known as nyjer) out for these buddies, They also love some sunflower chips!
Orioles, on the other hand, are perhaps the most peculiar visitors in terms of diet. Coming to Charleston from the north, orioles love a variety of foods. Their favorite: grape jelly. Now for quick clarification, we recommend you get jelly that is meant for the birds, not humans. Besides jelly, orioles will also drink nectar (same recipe as hummingbirds), eat mealworms, and devour oranges (in fact, orioles are drawn in by the color orange just like hummingbirds are attracted to red). These birds are real easy to identify too with the males being a bright orange. The females can sometimes take on a yellow color, but if they are eating the jelly, they are an oriole!
Those are the biggest changes to your yard during this season. Almost all of your songbirds will remain. Some folks can have some unexpected visitors using their yard as a pit stop from Point A to Point B, so keep an eye out for any birds you do not recognize or know. With so much migration occurring in the next few months, one can see a lot of birds hitting their feeders and baths. Because of the steep increase in traffic, it is crucial that you provide for the birds. You may be what decides a safe and comfortable journey, so stay vigilant, proactive, and conscientious of what is going in your yard! You won’t regret what you’ll see!