IN THE BACKYARD : Philadelphia late-April
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The last two weeks of April highlight how spring has sprung in Philadelphia! Birds are on the move, with daily changes in occurrence and distribution. Winter migrants are moving out, while spring ones arrive, and breeders stake-out nesting spots. April 18 was our last sighting of Dark-eyed Junco in the backyard, though White-throated Sparrows linger, singing loudly and gleaming in bright breeding plumage.
Several migrants stopped in our property, drawn by dense, native-shrub vegetation and a few water baths. Sightings included Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Towhee, and Brown Thrasher. On two occasions, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visited the nectar feeder before continuing on his way north.
Brown-headed Cowbirds lurk around the feeders, awaiting opportunity to follow and lay an egg in the nest of our local Song Sparrows. Chipping Sparrows breed nearby, and often zip around the yard. Over the last days of the month, male and a female Yellow-rumped Warblers showed a few times; several more are heard singing sweet soft melodies from the trees. Late on April 30th, we saw a Black-throated Blue Warbler, and heard Northern Parula. I look forward to seeing more warblers in May.
House Wren and Gray Catbird announced their return with loud voices. Within hours of arrival, the House Wren started collecting and stuffing sticks into a favorite nestbox. A second wren arrived, both focused on nest building – I wonder if they are the same pair as last year? Multiple catbirds chase each other, though it seems two have paired up to stake-out territory.
On April 29th, I watched a pair of Mourning Doves courting on our neighbor’s back patio. Their ritual involved bill-touching, mutual preening, and feather fluffing, which culminated in a very brief mating. Interestingly, a juvenile dove was begging them for food all the while, which the adults totally ignored. Mourning Doves nest nearly year-round, making them abundant and widespread; raising five (5) broods in our region would not be unusual. This pair is keeping busy, indeed, as their begging offspring had probably fledged within the past 5 days!
Carolina Wrens, year-round residents, have paired up and spend ample time poking for insects among our logs and snags. It’s great fun to watch them zip around, catch bugs, and sing boldly from perches. Northern Cardinals and House Finches flash bright colors and sing loudly all day long. It’s never dull watching the birds of my backyard!
updated April 17-30, 2021