Column: Fall bird arrivals are right on schedule
Have you noticed a change in the birds that are showing up in your backyard over the past week? In last week's column I wrote, "I haven't seen any dark-eyed juncos in my yard yet, but surely they are only days away from arriving." Wouldn't you know it, they showed up last week! Already I have almost as many dark-eyed juncos in my yard as white-crowned sparrows.
Ground-feeding birds such as juncos and sparrows prefer white-proso millet, a small whitish seed - not to be confused with milo. A lot of customers complain that no birds eat the millet ingredient in their seed blends. Personally, I am a big believer in providing millet - especially during the fall and winter months when a lot of ground-feeding species occur in pinyon/juniper and oak/chaparral habitats. It has been my experience over years of bird feeding that millet consumption goes up in the winter months and decreases in early spring when many of our winter birds leave to go north. While many ground-feeding species such as Gambel's quail, mourning dove and spotted towhees are here year-round, it is the fall arrivals that really kick up millet consumption.
If you feed a seed blend containing millet, the millet usually ends up on the ground. Birds that prefer to feed at elevated feeders kick the millet ingredient out of the feeder. In my yard, I broadcast millet directly down onto the ground.
In addition to the dark-eyed juncos, I have been seeing chipping sparrows and a lone Lincoln's sparrow in my yard this week. The Lincoln sparrow's behavior has been particularly interesting. Typically this species is very skittish and something of a skulker. This individual, however, is bold and is not easily disturbed. I can walk by the window and it does not flush. I can even go out in the backyard without it flying away, which is very unusual.
Many customers are currently reporting fewer lesser goldfinches at their finch feeders. Hummingbird numbers have really dropped off, too. One of the most frequent questions we are asked this time of year is, "When should I take down my hummingbird feeders?" I know some folks have hummingbirds all winter long, but that is really the exception and not the rule. In those situations, you should probably keep one feeder going throughout the winter. However, the rule of thumb that I recommend is to take your hummingbird feeders down by the end of October.
In last week's column I mentioned suet cakes. As the weather gets colder, suet is an excellent high-protein, high-energy food source for insect-eating birds. Most of our insect-eating birds head south sometime between August and September. However, they are replaced in the fall by other insect-eating bird species that migrate here from points further north. Some of those suet lovers include Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
A quick reminder that our eight-year anniversary celebration is this Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Prescott store on Willow Creek Road. At noon we will announce the winners of our third annual wild bird photo contest and we will be giving away a pair of Vortex binoculars. We will have live birds of prey on hand, and we will be providing a very nice free lunch. I would like to personally invite you to join me and my family as we celebrate not only eight years of business, but also the return of our son, Merritt, from Brazil.
Until next week, happy birding!
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2370 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 45 years. If you have specific questions related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email Eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.