June 20, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 15 July 2010 10:35
How many families can a female bird raise in a season? That’s the question Diana Gray asks about a robin at her Wilton home that is now on its third nesting this year.“My husband built a small shelf a few years ago, in the covered entryway to our kitchen, for bird nesting,” Diana writes. “The first year a phoebe nested there, the second year a swallow, and the third year a robin. The robin has continued to come back, the only one that can tolerate me going out the side door every third day to water the hanging fuchsia, and change the hummingbird syrup.
“This year was the third year, and she is now sitting on her third nesting! No wonder the February bird count in Florida logged 1.8-million robins!
“However, in this past four to five days of heat, I have had to go out almost daily to water the fuchsia, and she has gotten increasingly agitated. So I finally brought in the fuchsia, and disassembled the hummingbird feeder (we have a large garden, and I rarely see the hummer). Now she can relax, and I will observe from afar (outside).
“Is it rare that the robin nests three times? I was away when the first nestlings would have fledged, but saw the second group.”
It is uncommon to find a robin with three broods in a season — in this part of the country, at least.
The farther south you go, the longer the breeding season for many birds. Such species as bluebirds and robins in the South can easily fit in three broods, but up this way, they typically do two.
However, in what may be yet another sign of “global warming,” breeding seasons may be gradually increasing in the more northern states as spring seems to come earlier.
Robins spend about two weeks incubating the eggs, and another two weeks dealing with the nestlings. However, robins form monogamous pairs, and the male is a good father. Dad will take care of the first brood while the female will begin incubating a second clutch of eggs. Such efficiency along with moderating temperatures in southern New England could lead to three broods a season.
Robins, incidentally, are fond of the nesting shelves that Diana describes. Our friends at Bird Watcher’s Digest have free, downloadable plans for building one. Log onto birdwatchersdigest.com and search for the term, “nest shelf.”
Hank Bianco of Wilton writes, “I am not a real birder but I do enjoy my feeder outside my kitchen window. I have lived on Range Road in Wilton for 22 years and have seen a pair of owls in my yard for the last three days. I have never seen anything like them before and am amazed to see and hear them. One was sitting on my back deck looking through the glass doors. Is this unusual? Will they be staying or do they just pass through? I can hear them when I walk out of my house and am just so amazed.”
All species of local, year-round owls — such as Great Horned, Barred, Barn, Northern Saw Whet, and Eastern Screech — are monogamous and most form long-lasting pairs. Back in January, we ran a Morris Finkelstein’s wonderful photo of a pair of Great Horned Owls perched in a tree at Tod’s Point in Greenwich.
Bunny Scott of Rowayton used to have a lot of chickadees, but, she said, “I don’t seem to see any of them any more.”
In late spring and summer, many chickadees move north — perhaps in search of cooler temperatures but more likely, in search of food. Feeders provide only a small portion of the food for wild birds, and there may be a limited harvest of seed and-or insects available in parts of our area. (I also wonder about the food-supply effects of all the insect- and weed-killing chemicals we use on lawns and plants here — a subject for another column.) Goldfinches may also migrate north in summer.
Birds also move around locally in search of better food supplies so the Rowayton chickadees may have headed up toward Wilton or New Canaan for better chow.
At our house, we still have both chickadees and goldfinches this summer. The chickadees have been bringing their fledglings to the feeders lately.
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.
Birdwatching cruises of the Norwalk Islands, aboard the new 45-foot C.J. Toth ferry, three hours, Saturdays, July 10, 24, Aug. 7, 21; Wednesdays, July 14, 21; Thursdays, Aug. 5 and 19, at 7:30 a.m., $22 adults, $12 kids, Norwalk Seaport Association, Seaport Dock, corner of Washington and Water Streets, South Norwalk, reservations, 203-838-9444.
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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