When warmer weather comes, humans aren’t the only creatures that become more active in the backyard. The onset of summer brings with it many new and exciting things, especially as it relates to backyard bird watching.
With spring migration over and mating season winding down, the summer months are front and center. Opportunities to observe new generations of birds engaging in strange new behaviors for the first time are abundant. Post-nesting season adds both excitement and intrigue to the backyard happenings of many a bird watcher—from bird parents teaching their fledglings where to find food and how to eat from feeders to other, more entertaining growing pains, this year’s offspring comes alive in the summertime. Here are some fun things to look and listen for at feeders over the next few months.
“Fledglings are still growing out their feathers, so their bodies often appear mottled or slightly fuzzy,” Wild Birds Unlimited’s Product and Hobby Education Manager Brian Cunningham said. “There are often spots or streaks on the head, back, breast or flanks until the feathers are fully grown, making it fairly easy to spot the offspring from their parents.”
An entertaining behavior many fledglings exhibit is disrespecting personal space. Within the first two weeks of leaving the nest, fledglings often act as a shadow to their parents, remaining in ultra-close proximity as a safety and learning measure.
“Watch for one or more birds closely following or outright chasing a parent,” Cunningham said.
“When hungry, many fledglings harass their parents by continuously begging for food. Their incessant chatter and “feed me” cries will ring throughout your backyard for weeks as these young ones learn to fend for themselves”, Cunningham said, explaining that these calls can be single- or double-noted and sound like squeaks or chip notes.
“Chickadees and goldfinches are notorious for incessant feeding chatter,” he said.
Coupled with these “feed me” calls comes specific body positioning as fledglings prepare to accept their highly-anticipated morsels. A fledgling may beg with its mouth open toward the parent. Fledglings may also move their heads from side to side and flutter their wings to get the attention of their parents when they’re hungry. Bird watchers should keep an eye out for these specific behaviors. Doing so helps distinguish fledglings from adult birds.
Another physical attribute indicative of a given bird’s relative age is its tail feathers. Typically, when there’s “no end” in sight, a bird is likely still on the younger side.
“Tail feathers are usually the last to fully grow,” Cunningham said. “Young birds' tail feathers can appear very short or it can look like a bird has no tail.”
Armed with the ability to identify the younger birds from the older ones, backyard bird watchers can better adjust their spaces and provide the necessary resources to help these fledglings thrive. One way to support growing feathered friends is by filling backyard feeders with high-protein seed blends packed with mealworms and tree nuts.
Besides high-protein foods, adult birds need plenty of fat-powered energy when it comes to raising, feeding and defending their young against intruders. It takes a lot of energy, and they need good food to do it, which is where Wild Birds Unlimited comes in. The brand’s proprietary food blends are specifically designed to support the seasonal needs of a variety of species in order to support their growth and development, bringing the quality of the backyard bird feeding hobbyist’s experience to a whole new level.
“We’re always looking for new ways to better support bird nutrition with the foods that we offer,” Cunningham said. “We continually learn about wild birds’ needs and preferences through new research. “This allows us to better support these fledglings through their adolescence so that they have the best chance to repeat the cycle next year, bringing us the joy of watching a new generation as we did them.”