May 25, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 01 July 2010 11:18
A golden hummingbird? Allen Welby of Ridgefield may have the answer to a mystery.
Last week, Kerstin McCauley from Lake Katonah reported an odd hummingbird at her feeder. “The whole bird was a metallic gold (not yellow) with dark flecks.”
Kerstin is experienced with local hummingbirds, so a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, which has a lot of yellow and behaves somewhat like a hummingbird, probably wouldn’t have fooled her.
“There really isn’t a metallic gold hummingbird in North America or Mexico,” Allen writes. “My guess is that it was a common Ruby-throated Hummingbird that had recently fed deeply within a large flower, in the process covering itself with golden flecks of pollen. Being that they are pollinators, it is common to see hummingbirds with shiny flecks of pollen on their faces and foreheads. It is probable that this bird just really got a full pollen bath.”
Diane Gray of Wilton is a House Wren fan, and “after two weeks of hearing one of my favorite birds dumped on, I have to fight back on their behalf!
“Firstly,” she writes, “many of us do not have the large field/meadow space upon which bluebirds like to launch their flight in search of bugs. Much of lower Fairfield County is now woodsy, despite its suburban flavor.
“Secondly, while bluebirds are the tops in their gorgeous color, the wren is second to none in their incredible, melodious song (I include the soft, gentle songs of the Veery and Swainson’s Thrush). I have heard a tape this year of the European Nightingale, and it’s nowhere near our House Wren.
“When I became interested in birds as an adult, there were only two I remembered as a child growing up in Newtown, the chickadee (so cute) and the House Wren — for its incredible song. If it’s feisty as well, that’s great. It assures it will continue to carve out a space for itself in our ever-more populated world.”
Jane McCaffrey of West Redding has no problem with wrens in her bluebird boxes: It’s swallows.
“My husband and I have been very much interested in the comments about successful bluebird housing — and the intrusion of wrens. When we moved to our home in a large meadow four years ago, a friend installed five bluebird houses in the meadow, on poles with baffles, as a housewarming present. That first year three of those houses sheltered bluebird families.
“And then came the Tree Swallows! Every year they take over more and more of the houses until this year, only one was successfully defended by the bluebirds. We are trying to figure out how to change this situation. Maybe more houses? Any ideas?
“As for the wrens, we have four houses hanging from tree limbs around the house, and we always have at least two occupied. They have not been a problem for the bluebirds.
“Every fall my husband cleans out the bluebird houses, seals up the ventilation opening with duct tape, and puts grass in the bottom of the boxes. This year, when cleaning out the houses in the spring he found three dead bluebirds in one of the boxes. Proof indeed that they are using the boxes for shelter in the winter, but what a sad outcome!”
Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds can nest in harmony, but the North American Bluebird Society recommends this technique. “If Tree Swallows or Violet-green Swallows are likely to use the box, try setting out two boxes about 10 feet apart so that the bluebirds can use one and the swallows the other. Most bluebirders have found that this practice of pairing the boxes will allow both species to nest side by side in relative peace.”
Some bluebird authories recommend that the paired boxes be 15 to 25 feet apart.
The society also recommends that, to discourage wrens, the boxes be at least 100 feet away from woods. Some authorities say 125 feet.
A number of species of birds see their reflections in windows, and attack them, thinking it’s a competing bird — usually a male — that has invaded its territory. Robins, cardinals, and several kinds of sparrows are known to do this, especially if their nest is close to the house. Gary Knox of Ridgefield has been having the same experience with an Eastern Bluebird. It seems “fixated on trying to get into our residence,” he said.
Hummingbirds: Feathered Gems, Gina Nichol, former Audubon staff member, illustrates the amazing adaptations of these birds and describes their fascinating life histories, Saturday, July 17, 3:30-4:30 pm, $5, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich.audubon.org.
Sharon Audubon Festival, nature walks, bird programs, music, food, displays, Saturday and Sunday, Aug.14 & 15, 9: to 5, 860-364-0520, sharon.audubon.org.
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, 203-637-9822.
Copyright 2010 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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