It’s early May and the cooler weather is holding spring’s progression up like a dam that’s about ready to overflow.
That’s what I think most of us are feeling right about now. With cold and frosty nights still possible for several days out as I write this, many plants that had progressed so much have put on the brakes trying to keep their tender new growth concealed a little longer. The migration of the birds, though primarily controlled by the calendar, seems to have slowed down as well. Sure, we have seen the regulars already, but the numbers of each seem to be off from normal. This means that some birds may be holding up just south of us while they wait for the persistent cold air mass to finally move out of the northeast.
So, when the weather breaks, we will see a flood of new growth and many new birds arriving. If you have already seen your first orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, hummingbirds, and catbirds there still remains a larger population of those same birds to come. There also remains a vast variety of other birds that are dependent upon the insect supply. These would include 30 species of warblers and many species of flycatchers.
As we all know, warmer weather brings on insects which is the food for a major portion of our many birds. If birds rely on seeds, what seeds are naturally available right now? None. So that is why your bird feeders are busy taking care of the seed-eating birds. These same seed-eating birds also eat many insects when they are available.
Whereas the delay of the migration of many species and birds in general is related to the cooler weather, it’s only because of the colder weather’s influence on the insect population. The birds can handle the cold but they need the food. Most of those species that eat insects do not eat seeds of any kind. Only certain birds can eat both seeds and insects.
Given the cool May that we are experiencing, we will gradually see orioles become more numerous at feeding stations that offer grape jelly and citrus fruits. This is the perfect setup for much activity on your back deck or porch and for viewing these beautiful birds. So, if you have never put out a little dish of grape jelly, this would be the time to give it a try! You may be in for a nice surprise.
Last year we also had plenty of cool weather in May and at times we – and several others – had 15 to 20 orioles waiting for a turn at one of several bowls of grape jelly and orange-halves. That included two pairs of brick-red colored orchard orioles. Keep an eye out for them.
Feeding hummingbirds sugar water (4 parts of water and one part sugar boiled for a couple of minutes) is a great way to enjoy them up close. Do not put food coloring in the water. It’s not good for them and the red color of the plastic feeder is enough to attract hummingbirds to the feeder. As for purchasing a sugar water oriole feeder…. don’t waste your money!
There are also many beautiful plants that will give your hummingbirds the natural nectar that they love to feed upon all summer. One of the annuals that hummingbirds like a lot are these special salvias which bloom profusely and provide hummingbirds with much food late into the summer It is much fun working in the garden and having hummingbirds feeding right along side.
I can not stress enough how you should make time to get out and see the several species of warblers passing through over the next week or two.
Also, are you keeping track of your nesting bluebirds? Do not let house sparrows successfully use your nest boxes! Keep your bluebird nest boxes well out in the open.
The vast majority of bird migration is about to happen. Beauty is everywhere we look right now and opportunities to see so many birds is never better than now. It’s a busy time for all of us, but we need to take time to discover the less conspicuous beautiful birds.
Let’s all be thankful for God’s creation and beauty as we watch spring’s miracles unfolding before us. Enjoy this beautiful month of May.
Hans Kunze is an avid birder and nature enthusiast who has been writing about birds and nature for more than 30 years. He writes for the The Livingston County twice each month. Write him at 6340 LaGrange Rd Wyoming, NY 14591 or call or text (585) 813-2676 with birding questions or information on upcoming bird identification or garden walks.