Sunday, April 26, 2009

Signs of the Times

You can't go anywhere outside these days without being reminded that it's spring. The signs of the season are everywhere. Here are just a few that I've noticed this week.
It seems that almost every bird I see is with a partner. Even the Western Kingbird that has appeared at CyFair this week has turned out to be one of a pair.

Of course, some birds haven't quite got their relationships sorted out yet. Our front yard has a male Northern Mockingbird that is absolutely desperate for a mate. We're hoping he finds one soon because his constant calling is driving us crazy and he won't stop calling, day or night, until he is successful.

Everywhere I walk or drive I see male Great-tailed Grackles displaying and singing to attract females.

Of course, it isn't mating season only for birds. The male anoles in our yards are also looking for mates. They find a conspicuous place to stand and then puff out the pink patch on their throat.

Territorial Behavior
Some Mockingbirds are further along in the mating game than others and have already started nesting. And when they nest, they defend their area ferociously. Yesterday I watched a pair chasing off a Great-tailed Grackle that had strayed onto their territory. He didn't take the hint when they ran up to him with their wings spread.

In the end, it took a couple of minutes of claw-to-claw tussling on the ground to drive him away.

Some birds are even further along and have already produced offspring. The Killdeer at CyFair are in this happy position and they are busy leading unwelcome visitors away from the areas where their young are feeding. In our yards, our adult House Finches are now bringing their fledglings to the feeders.

Unfortunately, some families have been less lucky than others. One of our young finches isn't able to handle the sunflower seeds in our feeders because it has a badly-deformed beak.

Realizing the problem, its father brought the youngster to our hummingbird feeder, where the young bird was able to drink by hovering at the feeder.

However, finches aren't really built for hovering and it was heartbreaking to watch the young bird expending huge amounts of energy to get a few sips of sugar water. We tried to help by lowering the feeder so that the youngster can perch on the fence and reach the feeder ports from their. Meanwhile the father patiently stands guard and chases off other finches that try to access the feeder.

However, this is only a temporary solution and I doubt that the sugar water will provide enough nutrients for the young bird to survive on for long. I tried to help more by smearing peanut butter on the fence but the youngster didn't take advantage of this extra food source.

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