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July 5, 2020

5/27/2020 2:22:00 PM
So many birds, so little space
Outdoor Notes
Neil Case

It's early in the morning, the sun is up but it's low in the sky, just above the eastern horizon. I'm up, too; dressed and sitting at my desk, watching birds at the feeder outside the window, and considering a topic for my next article.

Should I write about one of the birds coming to my feeder? There are black-capped chickadees and a white-breasted nuthatch, cardinals, a blue jay, two mourning doves, a chipping sparrow, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, goldfinches, house sparrows and a male rose-breasted grosbeak. I could write about any of those birds, but I already have - some more than once.

Chickadees and nuthatches, for example, are no bigger than the chipping sparrow, but they come to the feeder every day, year-round, except in inclement weather. They flit about cheerily, whether the temperature is below freezing or it's a balmy 70 degrees.

Blue jays are also year-round feeder birds in northern Indiana; they do not migrate. Cardinals also have become year-rounders since I moved to the Hoosier state. At that time, the northern limit of the range of cardinals was southern Indiana, along the Ohio River.

Blue jays, like the chickadees and nuthatches, are summer and winter birds in northern Indiana and north well into Canada. Blue jays came to the bird feeder I had when I was a boy growing up in northern Iowa.

Mourning doves were early spring migrants to northern Indiana when I moved here. A mourning dove in March was like a robin, a sure sign of spring. Now I've seen mourning dog es all winter. There have been two mourning doves at my feeders almost every day all winter. There are two mourning doves at the feeder outside my study window now.

Goldfinches are year-rounders in northern Indiana but they change their colors with the seasons. In summer males are right yellow with a black cap, wings and tail. In fall they lose the yellow and become dull colored, like the females. In spring they regain the bright yellow. They're changing now. Some of them have almost regained their sun-shiny summer brightness.

When I was young, redwing blackbirds lived mostly in cattail marshes. But they began nesting along roadsides and in grassy fields. By the time I was in college, they were considered the most numerous species of summer bird in North America, from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains and form the Gulf Coast to Canada.

When their nesting season is over, even before nesting is over, redwings segregate. Males desert their mates and gather in flocks with other males in mid-summer, leaving the females to raise their broods. When the fledglings leave the nests females and young gather in flocks with other females and young of the year. They stay segregated through the winter and into the spring.

Male redwings return north earlier in spring than females, establish territories and sing to attract mates. They also come to bird feeders, though that was unheard of when I was young. They have been at my feeder since February.

I've had cowbirds at my feeders for about the same time as male redwings. The last few days a male and a female rose-breasted grosbeak have been coming to the feeder outside my study window, a male and a female Baltimore oriole to the feeder outside the dining room window.

So what bird should I write about?

(Case can be reached at neilcase@ligtel.com or 0439 S. 50W, Albion, IN 46701.)

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