bird_column1_05-12_t715Did you know that this Saturday, May 14, is designated as International Migratory Bird Day? The purpose of IMBD is to highlight the importance of international efforts to conserve birds. There are almost 350 bird species that migrate each year between their nesting habitats in North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

This year’s celebration is especially significant, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty, signed into law in 1916. This agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico protects our shared migratory birds.

Migratory birds face many threats, whether it is wind turbines, solar arrays, tall buildings, city lights at night that can disrupt their navigation, and certainly predators. However, one of the greatest threats to migratory birds is loss of habitat.

Habitat loss results in the loss of food sources and places to rear young. Imagine, with me, a bird leaving its summer home last September, headed to the tropics. Seven months later when it returns to North America, it discovers that its nesting habitat is now a new housing development. Where will it feed and rear its young?

Migration requires a significant amount of energy. Birds burn up a lot of their fat reserves in the process of flying hundreds—if not thousands—of miles, sometimes in just a matter of a few days or weeks. Migrating birds often arrive at their breeding destination exhausted and weak.

What can you, as a homeowner, do to help migrating birds? Most importantly, provide a yard that is filled with trees, shrubs and grasses to provide a place for birds to forage for food. In addition to creating and maintaining an inviting habitat, you can supplement what the birds are finding in nature with food sources such as mealworms, fruit, jelly, suet, loose seeds, nuts and seed cakes.

The rainy, unsettled weather we have been enjoying the last two weeks has made for a delightful spring. I think the birds are enjoying easing into warmer weather as much as we are. So often our weather goes from cold to hot overnight, with not a lot of cool, spring-like weather in between. These late spring rains have been so welcome. Each week, I check the flow of Granite Creek. When I was there a few days ago, I saw a beautiful male wood duck swimming in the creek!

The same day, a casual, non-birding walk in Watson Woods resulted in a lot of migratory bird sightings—even though I wasn’t wearing my binoculars. I heard or saw Bullock’s oriole, blue grosbeak, summer tanager, American goldfinch, ash-throated flycatcher, western wood-pewee, several warbler species and a belted kingfisher.

When one of our Bird Barn employees arrived at work on Monday, she said they had had the most amazing bird weekend at their home, which included four different bird species that they had never seen in their yard before—indigo bunting, American goldfinch, green-tailed towhee and a bronzed cowbird.

Every day I receive emails from customers, often including an attachment with pictures of the birds they are seeing in their yard. On Monday of this week, I received an email with a picture of four different bird species feeding on the same tube feeder at the same time—a male lesser goldfinch (yellow), a male house finch (red), a male lazuli bunting (turquoise), and a male indigo bunting (indigo). Wow, what a gorgeous combination of colors! I invite you to enjoy the show of color spring migration is bringing right to your yard.

Until next week, Happy Birding!