This is probably my favorite time of year to feed the birds. The reason is because I love to see the new fledglings being fed by the adults, and watching their antics.
Case in point... this video of a young Rose-breasted Grosbeak:
Our Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrive back from their winter in Central and northern South America around the end of April or beginning of May. To be more precise, this year I saw the first one on May 3rd, while last year it was April 27th.
The males arrive first to start staking out their territory, and it's always a thrill for me when I see the first one. As the Cornell website says, "They are like an exclamation mark at your bird feeders".
The females, with their sparrow-like plumage, arrive a short time later. They all busily come to bird feeders to refuel from their long trip, then get down to the business of nest-building and raising a family.
Meanwhile (and all the while!)... they sing!
Both sexes sing a pretty song that's been described as Robin-like but 'sweeter' or 'prettier'. I've read that they sing while they build the nest, while they incubate the eggs (one of the few bird species that do!)... and they do it day and night. Now, I don't know that from personal experience, because ours (as far as I know) nest in our big woods and I'm not up there at night. I can vouch for them singing very prettily during the day though. Here's a link where you can listen. They also have an interesting call that sounds just like a rubber sneaker squeaking on a gym floor.
The last few days, we've had quite an abundance of them at our feeders again. I've seen 5 males at a time, and a bunch of youngsters.
The costumes for this circus at our feeders seem to mostly be black, white, and red -- the male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks being the stars, backed up by some male Red-winged Blackbirds, and occasional woodpeckers including Downys and Red-bellieds.
Things get pretty crazy sometimes. Usually everybody eventually gets a seed, although sometimes it involves a number of tries.
Besides admiring the male Grosbeaks for their handsome looks, they have other commendable qualities. They help with the nest building, then also help incubate the eggs, and with feeding the youngsters. In fact, I've read that the males may care for the fledglings while the female begins a second brood. I'm wondering if that may be happening here, because I am mostly seeing males and juveniles at the feeders.
The young ones flit their wings and beg to be fed.
They are usually rewarded.
Notice the underwing color of that one is yellow. That means it's a female.
The next one has rose-colored 'armpits' so it is a male.
"Feed me, please?"
I've read that the young ones are mostly fed insects, but around here they seem to be getting a lot of sunflower seeds. (Perhaps they are feed more insects while they are still in the nest). Some do still get insects here, as you can see in the next photo.
And that's probably a good thing, because their source of sunflowers seeds may be drying up, due to the surprise visitor yesterday afternoon.
My reaction? Grab the camera and take some photos, then get all the bird feeders inside!
Yes, he was headed for the feeders, but I got there first. We have only had bears get into our feeders 2 or 3 times over the years, and then only at night. So we typically bring the feeders inside at night once it's 'bear season'.
My yelling at him only caused him to retreat a little ways into the woods, and then he took a little tour of my flower garden.
While I've been writing this post, I've been occasionally glancing out the window and guess who is back?
This time he got closer to the feeders. So once again I grabbed my camera and took a few quick shots, then opened the kitchen door a little ways and yelled! Though he was in position to grab the suet feeder, he didn't get it.
Nor did he damage anything (yet!), but it looks like bird feeding is finished here for awhile! He ran off, hopefully to go find some wild food. And I'm sure the birds will, too, though there are still some in the apple tree wondering where the feeders went!