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Migrant Birds on their Way (Posted On: Friday, March 09, 2012)

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Is a Robin the first sign of spring?  Not always – in fact this mild winter has seen small flocks of Robins hanging on throughout the snowy months, feeding on crabapples and other berries.  A more reliable harbinger of spring might be the Eastern Bluebird, a smaller cousin of our American Robin, which shows up beside grassy fields from early March onwards.

The first wave of spring migrants is dominated by hardy members of the blackbird family – Red-winged Blackbirds flashing their scarlet shoulder patches in the marsh, Eastern Meadowlarks displaying their brilliant yellow chests in open fields, and flocks of Common Grackles and Starlings swooping down in noisy confusion in your yard.

Keeping your feeders stocked during the uncertain spring season is important for these early arrivals.  They may ignore feeders most of the time, but a late snowfall or an extended spell of cold wet weather can bring them in search of an emergency food source.  Finch feeders can be important too, as lingering Siskins and Goldfinches fatten up in preparation for their northward journey to nesting grounds.
One spring arrival which you don’t want to encourage is the Grackles, which are notorious nest robbers of eggs and young for many songbirds. 

If you need to, you can purchase a cage to prevent Grackles from reaching your tube feeders, since they will feast on black oilseed.  In our experience, another effective deterrent is to switch your seed over to Safflower – Purple Finches, Cardinals, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks love safflower, but Grackles generally turn up their shiny black bills at these white seeds.

By early May, it is time to break out the sugar water feeders for Hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles, and the spring season is well and truly underway.  Enjoy!

The Bird House Nature Company
21 Hurontario Street


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