This is the month that many of us will finally get to see the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds as they start their lazy migratory drift back south during August. You’ll stand a better chance of attracting them to your nectar feeders early on if you have those feeders out the first week of August. But anytime during August into early September you can put up a hummingbird feeder and attract these little jewels as they pass through. Many folks ask how long will they remain? Well, if the weather holds out, they could be here into early October. Another factor which helps to attract Hummingbirds to our yards is dry weather. A lack of rain causes the wild flowers to produce less nectar. But because we water our gardens the flowers in them will contain a higher quantity making it easier to attract these little flying jewels to these limitless sources of nectar in our hummingbird feeders.
Keep your hummingbird feeders clean and supplied with fresh nectar. Try to keep the feeder in the shade as the hot sun will separate the sugars from the water. The correct formula for homemade nectar is four parts boiling water to one part sugar. Let it cool and then store it in the refrigerator. Homemade nectar should be replaced every 48 hours. However, with commercial nectar, you can get by with changing it only once or twice each week. Put in small amounts and you will have less to discard as you keep the supply fresh.
August is also the main month for two of our late nesters, the Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwings. The proper nesting materials are now abundant and of course their food supply has matured.. Berries for the Waxwings and seeds for the Goldfinch are now ready for them to harvest and feed their young. The other late nester, our Mourning Doves, is also an early nester. I personally believe they nest at least five times before folding up the chairs and calling it a season.
By months end, most of our neo-tropical birds will have departed or will be gathering to do so. Orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, and Tanagers are just a few of those who must get an early start. Purple Martins and Chimney Swifts will be forming pre-migratory roosts as they get ready to depart. Most birds weigh a scant two to four ounces and travel to South and Central America for the most part. Some of these birds will travel the almost 600 miles non-stop across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That is quite a feat by any standards especially for a hummingbird that weighs as little as two grams, less than a penny.
You may be noticing it has now become harder to tell the babies from their parents as they gain their adult plumage. During August, most of our birds will begin their molting phase and this brings on a short period of silence among them. They will lose a few tail feathers and flight feathers during the process. This affects their normal quickness as they remain aware that predators are always on the prowl. So their best defense in these conditions is to remain silent and stealthy. If your feeders are nestled among a good cover of habitat, you may not notice this reduced activity as those whose bird feeders are in wide open spaces. And for those bald headed birds who were victims of feather mites? They will soon look normal once again as the new feathers push into view. After all, it would be tough going through a Central Great Plains or Midwestern winter for a bald headed bird.
With the nesting season drawing to a close many family units of birds begin to break up. As this happens, the territorial defense of these birds disappears as well. With no nest or mate to defend there is no reason to be aggressive toward others. In fact most of our birds will be making up what we call “loose winter flocks” and will be more tolerant of their former competitors than before. By the end of August and into September these loose flocks will begin to establish their winter feeding territories. This will include both natural foods that have ripened as well as supplemental foods provided at bird feeders.
Make sure to keep your feeders well stocked even if the activity at them slows down. Birds will take advantage of what natural foods are now available knowing full well there is a supply of supplemental foods in your backyard as we move into the colder ahead.
And let us mention once again the attraction that shallow water has on our visiting songbirds especially if there is motion created. There will be many birds that migrating through our backyards over the next couple of months. Most of these migrating birds will have little interest in seed the seed in our bird feeders. They are strictly insect eaters but with a little habitat and a source of water you may be surprised at the number of bird species that visit your yard to forage for insects among the trees and bushes, grabbing a quick drink and a bath as the take a break on their journey south.
Suet will continue to be in high demand by those birds of the tree trunk zone: woodpeckers, nuthatches, and Chickadees. Due to the reduced number of insects during this summer’s drought, suet is a great alternative for providing the much needed animal protein. Commercial suet is 100% rendered animal fat.
Although it may seem the Grackles have dispersed causing less of a backyard nuisance these birds are still around and will return to the bird feeders in unruly flocks as they prepare to leave for the winter. Safflower seed will remain a great alternative for attracting the more desired birds while reducing the impact of Grackles over-powering the feeders. It will be interesting to see how the fall bird migration moves forward and the results of bird activity as a result of the current drought we are experiencing.. One thing is for certain. We cannot help every bird. That can only be accomplished through long term good conservation practices and supporting policy issues that impact the habitats of our North American bird population and birds worldwide. What we can do to benefit many birds is maintaining bird feeders, installing bird houses and nest boxes, making sure we maintain a fresh supply of water, and planting habitat in our yards, acreages, and farmsteads.
Traditional Safflower Seed