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Watching Baby Birds and Migrants Passing Through

Carolina Wrens raising babies in your hanging basket? Indigo Buntings and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks helping Cardinals at your feeders? Yes, spring has sprung in Coastal Mississippi.

Spring is a busy time for our feathered friends. For birds that are year-round residents, it is a time for nesting and rearing babies. For birds that are making their way back from their winter homes in South America, it is a time for refueling after a long flight across the Gulf of Mexico, and before they continue their travels to their nesting grounds to the north.

But why is spring so important for making baby birds or traveling through our region of the globe? The answers are, as with many things in nature, about having enough to eat, for yourself and your babies. It is all about where you choose to raise your young and when spring arrives at your destination.

It turns out that most birds feed their young soft, juicy insect larvae found in great abundance in the spring. Caterpillars of countless species of moths and butterflies, for example, predominate in the spring when their main food supply, the leaves of plants, are young and tender. Birds use this abundance to feed their young.

Since spring occurs early for the Gulf Coast, resident birds begin to raise babies in April and May to coincide with this local abundance. Spring is still several weeks away in more northern reaches of the country and Canada, the destination for migrating birds. A similar abundance of food will be there for them when they get there.

But after their exhausting travels, migrating birds also take advantage of our local abundance of food to refuel. That is why coastal regions are so important to so many species of birds. Our coastal habitats are rich larders of food. We need to keep them that way.

So, as you enjoy watching the Wrens, Cardinals, Titmice and Chickadees working your yard, pay attention to what they are hunting. Yes, they are coming to feeders, but that is largely to feed themselves. What they bring to their nest boxes is something else entirely. Same is true for migrating warblers, orioles and other migrants. Insects are on their menus. Seed eaters, like grosbeaks and buntings, will enjoy the seeds that you offer before they move on.

Now you know. Enjoy!

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!

Photo by Paul LaSalle Amrein


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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