Welcome Winged Visitors
– by Peter Gordon, Director of Education, Elachee Nature Science Center
Avian visitors are arriving in Georgia for one of the most anticipated events in nature: spring bird migration. Is your garden a main attraction?
Of the approximately 650 birds that call North America home, over half are migrants. In late March and early April, a sizeable number of species will pass through Georgia on their journey north, while others might set up housekeeping for the spring and summer in your backyard.
The Main Attraction: What Birds Find in Your Yard
Attracting birds to your backyard is relatively straightforward. All animals need food, water for drinking and bathing and good secure place to roost for the night, hide from predators or build a nest. Food can be your donation, or you can depend on the bounty that the trees, shrubs and flowers produce in your own yard.
Oak, Cherry, Sourwood and other species of trees are homes to hundreds of species of caterpillars which are a welcome meal to migrants and resident birds. Smaller trees such as dogwoods, and shrubs like blueberries and blackberries, produce energy-laden berries in the spring, summer and fall. Pines and other evergreens, river cane, native grasses and sedges provide shelter for the night or from unpredictable spring weather.
Additionally, native wildflowers will attract a variety of pollinators for the insectivores and will produce a great deal of seed for Cardinals, Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings and other species in the summer and fall.
If you are interested in seeing and hearing the new arrivals, focus on looking and listening for them. You don’t have to be a bird whisperer to notice if a song seems different from the ones you have heard before. Since it is also mating season, migrant birds want to sing even when they are just stopping over for a day or two. When a bird begins to sing, spot it with your eyes or with handy pair of binoculars.
Train your eyes to look at all levels of your yard or favorite greenspace. Birds are fastidiously loyal to particular habitats. For example, Wrens, Cardinals and Thrashers like being close to the ground. Others prefer mid-story locales. Still, you can only see others in the tree tops. Feeders and water features will bring hungry, thirsty and curious birds down to your level and can be the best places to see what species have dropped in. Read Elachee’s Hummingbird Tips blog post.
Enjoy this special season and don’t hesitate to call the Elachee staff at 770-535-1976 if you have birding questions or want to ask other questions about nature.