When the songbird migration is peaking in early May, interesting and colorful subjects can appear just about anywhere. In fact, a backyard bird feeder can be just as productive as an exotic field trip. Some sightings, like Goldfinches, might be resident birds, more obvious in bright breeding plumage. But many species, the surprise encounters that have us tripping over things to find binoculars, cameras and field guides, are migratory. They’re returning to their summer ranges and breeding grounds, often covering thousands of miles in the process. I’ll never even begin to comprehend that incredible feat of endurance and navigation.
Adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, in breeding plumage
A year ago, almost to the day, I observed Goldfinches and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at my feeders and published “Finch Metamorphosis” (5/11/2013). There was a repeat performance this year, with one exciting addition: an Indigo Bunting.
Adult male Goldfinches, in breeding plumage
With just 4 platforms on the tube feeder and 2 – 3 times as many finches, little scuffles for access occurred frequently. The mature males prevailed.
The Indigo Bunting, outnumbered and less aggressive than the Goldfinches, perched nearby and fed when the crowd left.
Adult male Indigo Bunting, in breeding plumage
The birdseed that everybody’s fighting over is a readily available (and expensive) product trademarked “Nyjer” seed. It is not thistle seed, as I once thought, but the fruit of Guizotia abyssinica, an annual, exotic plant that was first cultivated in Ethiopia.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.