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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

6/25/2009 11:17:00 AM
The Nesting Season -
A male Indigo Bunting photographed earlier this month  Photo by Don Reimer
A male Indigo Bunting photographed earlier this month Photo by Don Reimer
A Yellow Warbler in Warren  Photo by Don Reimer
A Yellow Warbler in Warren Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

By mid-June, all but a few of Maine's estimated 230 species of breeding birds have either nested or are already fledging their young. The American Goldfinch is one notable exception, delaying until late July or early August when thistle down is readily available for nest building material and seed is most abundant. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of waterfowl have hatched their broods as clusters of fluffy tennis-ball-sized ducklings, and goslings are seen on our local ponds and marshes. Most American Robins have now started on a second brood, and the newest batch of European Starlings has noisily hit the streets.

Although a dense chorus of morning songsters is heard each day, nesting birds are skulky and more secretive at this season of the year. In some cases, nest duties are shared by the sexes. However, male birds often tend to sing from exposed perches as they define and defend a summer nesting territory. June offers good opportunities to spot some of these vocalizing males.

The male Indigo Bunting is a strikingly blue bird with a slightly darker crown. Its short conical bill is used to feed on a varied diet of insects, seeds and berries. Females and winter-plumaged males are a uniform brown color. Ornithologists tell us that Indigo Buntings are not actually blue in color, but black. This phenomenon results from diffraction of light through the feather structure that causes the feathers to appear blue. These buntings prefer a habitat of brushy roadsides and second-growth woodland with heavy cover. Male buntings sing a series of buzzy, high-pitched notes that are given in pairs, somewhat reminiscent of a husky-sounding goldfinch.

Aptly named, the Yellow Warbler is found in bushy habitats that are usually located near water. Fine chestnut streaking on the chest, sides and flanks set the male apart from his slightly duller looking mate. A dark eye and black bill accent the clean overall appearance. This most yellow of warblers has a strong preference for willow-lined streams, leafy bogs and thickets; they will nest comfortably in backyards and suburbs as well. The characteristic song is a repeated "sweet, sweet, sweet, a little more sweet!" Yellow Warblers are frequent hosts to Brown-headed Cowbirds. When an errant egg is discovered, the warbler pair may build another nest atop the cowbird's egg. At other times, the scrambling warbler parents end up feeding and raising a "baby huey"-sized chick.

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