Home Gardening Blog

Summer Is for the Birds

posted on
Summer Is for the Birds

As I watch a pair of chipping sparrows make a nest in my patio hanging basket, I am reminded that summer is a great time to bird watch.  The long days in June, July and August provide an extended period of good light to watch birds especially since many species are more brilliantly colored during the summer months.  Birds are also nesting at this time which can make for intriguing observation of nest building behavior as well as incubation and rearing of hatchlings.

I asked fellow Master Gardener and birding enthusiast Anne Kirkpatrick for some of her best facts and tips for summer birding:

1.) Hang hummingbird feeders near a window where you are more likely to witness their fast and furious visits.  Remember that the nectar is simple but the ratio is important: mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  The solution will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Please don't use food coloring, honey, brown sugar, unrefined sugar or sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds.

2.) Learn to recognize song sparrows who like to sit on top bushes, trees, poles and wires.  They do most of their singing in the summertime.  Follow this link to listen to an example of their song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdaE7eaayKM

3.) Look for male indigo buntings; the small, brilliantly iridescent blue birds in the same family as cardinals.  They like to frequent small open spaces (like the Katy Trail) or weedy fields and shrubby areas where they fly short distances to catch insects or forage for seeds.

4.) Mockingbirds are backyard birds that are here year round but fun to observe in the summer.  If you hear a bird serenading you at night it is probably your neighborhood mockingbird.  They have a unique ability to mimic the sounds of the environment around them especially other birds (and even frogs.)  The mockingbirds ‘mock’ call will likely be repeated at least three times in a row distinguishing it from the authentic one.  Brown thrashers and catbirds—mockingbird relatives—can give a good imitation too but not nearly as frequently.  Also catbirds are much easier to hear than see.

5.) Goldfinches are plentiful in the summertime and the males will be at their brightest yellow color.  They can often be found visiting purple coneflower, black-eyed susan or weedy patches and overgrown fields.

There are several birds that visit us during the summer months and say their name as part of their call.  Listen for the Eastern Wood-Pewee (slurred sound of pee-a-wee), the Eastern Phoebe (soft fee-bee song), and the familiar Northern Bobwhite Quail (a two-note call of bob-white) which is an all year resident.

Here are a few good spots for summer birdwatching in St. Louis and the surrounding area:

1.) Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center (special wildlife-viewing window) http://mdc.mo.gov/regions/st-louis/powder-valley-conservation-nature-center

2.) Audubon Center at Riverlands (don’t miss the exhibits inside the center)  http://riverlands.audubon.org/birds-wildlife

3.) Forest Park (especially good for wading birds like the Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Green Heron and Yellow and Black-Crowned Night Herons)  http://www.forestparkforever.org/bird-watching

Pick up a free Bird Checklist from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening or a Field Guide to Fine Feathered Friends from the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden.

Enjoy the Birds!

Jan Gowen, Kemper Horticulture Assistant

Posted in: Summer | Tags: bird gardening | Comments (0) | View Count: (1246)
Comment function is not open