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Have you noticed an influx of bright blue birds at your bird feeders over the last week? Is your seed disappearing at a faster rate than usual? Does a chorus of bird song wake you early in the morning?
Spring migration is upon us, and birds such as the Indigo Bunting, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and a wide variety of vividly-colored warblers are arriving from their winter homes in the tropical regions of Central and South America. Most of them will stay a few days to refuel after traveling across the Gulf; consuming seeds, fruit, insects, and anything that they can find before continuing north to their summer breeding territories in the northern United States and Canada.
This year has had weather conditions conducive to a “fall out” where exhausted and hungry migrating birds hit bad weather and drop onto the nearest land that they encounter, frequently barrier islands or coastal shorelines. If you see tiny songbirds resting on the sand or boardwalks, you can guess that they just finished a long distance flight across the Gulf and are simply too tired to move.
Over the next few weeks, birds will continue arrive with southern winds, heading to all points north. The Pascagoula River Basin is home to more than 320 species of birds during the year, many of whom only visit for a few critical weeks during their spring and fall long distance journeys.
Our resident birds, birds that spend the year along the Gulf, are already well into their breeding season. You may see osprey and eagles carrying nest material or food, fuzzy Great Horned Owl chicks practicing their first flights, or have a brood of Eastern Bluebirds or Carolina Wrens chirping inside a bird box.
To attract and enjoy more backyard birds, there are a few simple things that you can do.
- Create a feeding station with seed feeders that contain black oil seed (sunflower or safflower seed) and thistle or niger seed
- Scatter mixed seed (with millet and other seeds) on the ground beneath feeders
- Add hummingbird feeders with sugar water (4 parts water, 1 part sugar, no food coloring added)
- Give them a shallow bird bath for water and for them to clean their feathers after their long flights
- Plant native flowers, shrubs, trees, and vines that provide both food and shelter
- Reduce the potential for collision with your windows by adding bird tape, streamers, or partially closing blinds to break up the impression of open space to birds in flight
- Keep cats indoors or (at a minimum) add bells to their collars
- Add a nest box with a predator guard installed to help cavity nesting birds
- Enjoy watching your colorful feathered visitors and appreciate your ability to observe one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena – spring migration!