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What Young Birds Must Learn.... Bird School
August 19, 2013
Summer weather has returned :-)
A taste of late September and October had descended on The Great Lakes Region.
If nothing else, it allowed time for me to do a few things on the ever present and growing 'Honey Do' list.
We will be gone for a couple of days this week (Tuesday- Thursday), I will get to your E-mails when we return.
I suppose it is our last hurrah for summer.
This time, we are taking our oldest daughter and family up to the Soo Locks, in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.
We have a couple of grand kids that haven't seen the Locks and possibly 1,000 foot ship as it locks through.
Still, a couple of kids don't remember crossing the Mackinac Bridge, or haven't yet.
Hopefully it will be a good time, a safe trip, and a memory builder for all.
These trips can have some challenges, but in the end, I think they are worth it.
Continue to deadhead your annuals and some perennials for continued bloom.
(Coconut Lime Echinacea in my yard.)
A good feeding and continue to water to keep the bloom season going strong.
Even seed savers can do some selective deadheading.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor, whether it be flowers, produce, of both.
Enjoy a slow evening walk.
Your favorite cold drink.
Go on, you deserve it.
Besides, summer will be over before you know it.
Jot down or keep mental notes of your successes and failures.
This list will come in handy next year, when you want to grow a certain plant (it's one of your favorites).
But, for some reason things haven't worked out.
I list will help with the frustration, and remind you what did grow well.
Summer is disappearing all too fast.
You may have noticed that some of your birds have vanished as well.
Do you notice a lack of Orioles.
Maybe there are fewer Tree swallows where you live.
Some species like Waxwings may have gone Nomad on you already.
Male hummingbirds in many northern climates are gone, though I still have a regular visitor.
Migration in July and early August?
Some species of birds get a jump on migration.
If you have been with me for any length of time, you will know that migration is virtually a year round event.
Almost anytime of the year, there is at least one species of bird that is on the move.
It may be a 200 mile journey from Michigan to Ohio and Indiana.
Possibly a trip down the Cascade Mountains to the warmer shores of the Pacific Coast.
Or, the epic journey made by the Arctic Tern.
Tiny technology has finally caught up with the Tern.
Scientists can now band high tech to the small bird, and to their surprise have discovered that the Arctic tern travels nearly 44,000 miles (71,000 kilometers) in migration every year.
22,000 miles one way.
Nearly double what experts first thought.
Now they must figure out why they take an abnormal route from North to South and visa versa.
Some of your birds are early arrivals and may nest 2-3 times
Others like Barn Swallows arrive in late May and early June, allowing enough time to raise one family in northern regions.
Many species of birds have but one nest per season period.
That is what time allows for.
Barn swallows in my part of Michigan have only fledged within the past two weeks.
Fledgling Barn swallows now have a few short weeks to learn and develop certain skills before the long trip south begins.
Besides nesting, Brooding and caring for nestlings varies with species.
A robin or bluebird may fledge in 12 to 14 days.
A tiny hummingbird may take up to a month (depending on the weather) though three weeks to 24 days roughly is about normal, give or take a day or two.
Still, large birds like hawks and owls may take a couple of months or more to fledge.
Incubating a clutch varies in length of time as well and this too, dictates the number of clutches a bird species may have in a year.
With migration and other factors..........................
Birds have a lot to do, and even more to learn is a short period of time.
Especially migrating birds.
School will start soon, as millions of kids and young adults head off for another season of education and hopefully learning some of life's skills.
Speech, work ethic, skills to survive, get a job, communicate with others.
It is no different in the bird world.
Our feathered friends have a lot to learn in a short period of time.
Skills that will make a difference in survival.
School Is In:
Some Things Baby Birds Need to Learn:
Fledgling and Juvenile birds have to be educated and trained for their life.
Though not exactly in the way we are trained, they still must learn survival skills.
We must learn to crawl before we can walk and walk before we can run.
Birds must strengthen their legs too, but learning to fly is paramount for most bird species.
Baby birds tend to first fly away from the nest, when the parents are away after food.
Sometimes, a parent will try to coax a nestling who is afraid to try his wings.
I have watched young birds leave a nest or nest box several times.
Yet, one seems to remain, too timid to try.
Baby will stand on the edge of the nest, or peak its head from the box and cry.
But it did not want to use its wings.
A parent may come along to see him now and then, but the big world was to scary.
Finally it may be coaxed out by mom or dad holding a juicy worm or insect just out of reach from baby.
Now the parent moves a bit further away until baby forgets its fears and pursues the food.
After the baby has left the nest, we know them as fledglings.
Most fledglings still need to master the art of flying and this takes place over the next few weeks.
I'm sure you have seen a fledgling clumsily do a nose dive into a shrub or make a crash landing.
The grace and beauty of flight will come as the young birds learn how to use and maneuver each feather individually for specific needs and duties.
(A miraculous feat in itself.)
The youngsters attempt to stay out of harms way and manage to call for food.
As flying skills improve, the baby/fledgling must learn several other life supporting skills.
Find their own food.
Where to sleep.
What to be afraid of.
How to protect himself from their enemies.
Different calls and cries of their family, and what each call means.
Learn social skill and hierarchy of the bird world.
Learn to fly in a flock with other birds.
And learn to sing.
If you watch baby birds just out of the nest, you can see them being taught the most useful and important lesson, how to find their food.
The robin parents take their babies to the ground, and shows him where the worms live and how to get them.
Cardinals bring their offspring to find berries, seeds and insects.
Often backyard feeders are one of the first lessons for some species of birds.
Though I must say, Black-capped chickadees have a long learning period before they return to my yard.
Sometimes, chickadee youngsters are gone for as long as two months from fledgling my nest box to returning to the scene.
When they return, they have developed many new skills from the smaller version of their parents when they first hopped out of the nest box.
From crash landings to skilled fliers and feeders.
Let's continue okay?
The owl parent finds a mouse creeping about in the grass, and teaches the owlets how to pounce upon it, by doing it herself before them.
The swallow, takes her youngsters into the air, and shows them how to catch insects and drink on the wing.
I've witnessed Red-tail hawks drop dead rats and other animal parts in an attempt to get their fledglings to fly down from a snag (dead tree) or utility pole and make a mock kill before they can feed.
It is almost a pitiful sight to watch a young, fledged hawk scream and cry helplessly.
Yet, knowing if it survives it will one day be an apex predator with its own territory.
If you watch long enough, you may see the parent bird who is training a young one to fly away.
She may leave the young one alone on a tree or the ground, and be gone a long time.
Before many minutes the little one will get hungry, and begin to call for food.
But, if nobody comes to feed him, it will think to look around for something to eat.
Now the fledgling will get his lesson in helping itself.
Many times I can watch parents ignore their youngsters or fly away for a time.
Eventually the young bird attempts to forage for itself and with some success.
However, as soon as mom or dad reappear, the cries and flapping wings start back up.
You've seen this too.
Fledglings and juveniles must also learn what to eat and what not to eat (poisonous) and how to remove stingers from wasps and bees.
Herons and kingfishers must learn how to wait patiently and at the right moment spear or dive into the water to catch its prey.
Osprey, Bald Eagles and other types of birds learn how to make corrections from what they see in the water and where the fish actually is.
They must to be successful hunters.
(Okay, so I help out from time to time.)
Young kingbirds must learn how to wait for insects to fly by, and then fly out and snag one in mid air.
Woodpeckers must learn to hunt for food in various ways.
There are many attempts and failures and if a young bird isn't successful it will starve.
Eventually, mom and dad will leave the fledgling to feed for itself.
There are time tables to keep.
For many birds, this is a must as new nests are being built and eggs laid.
For other birds time is important for lessons learned, as migration looms.
Yes, birds must learn a lot in a short period of time, and we often don't think about bird schooling.
Singing Lessons or Bird Talk:
Think of the several different calls a bird makes.
Songs for territory and mating.
Alarm calls, I'm mad, Real danger and more.
Listen to the many call of a robin and you will know what is going on with them.
Certain species like this Meadow Lark will face the sun while it sings, to show off its bright colored breast.
Research now suggests that Black-capped chickadees have one of he most complex languages in the bird world.
Every dee-dee-dee and every pitch (high and low) and length, has a different meaning and may even indicate direction according to some scientists.
That is truly amazing.
Or is it?
Birds are smarter than we give them credit for.
You may have heard several baby birds at their music lessons.
It is very easy to catch the birds teaching their little ones to exercise their wings and to fly together.
You may also witness parents teaching youngsters to sing or speak the language.
We all know they have the "feed me squawk" down pat, but now they must learn the language of "communication".
The language of "love", "danger", what kind of danger.
The language of "I'm mad", "alarm calls", "Where are you", and understanding all of the above.
Many species of birds even understand these signals from other species.
This is how several species can gang up on a crow or hawk that happens by.
Alarms are recognizable.
Blue jays have discovered that false alarm calls will leave feeding stations open as other birds scatter,.
Jays are quick to move in for a fast and uninterrupted feast.
Young birds must be taught about all the dangers out there.
Just like we try to teach our kids.
What birds and animals are predators ( there isn't always a second chance).
All of these lessons aren't over once the parents stop tending to the now juvenile's needs.
After mating season, many birds of a feather will flock together and the extended family continues to teach.
Even if it is simply from watching, listening and learning.
Juveniles are still learning survival skills.
Still learning where to find food, how and when to sing and what to fear.
Many larger birds will stay with their parents until next spring.
If this year's baby birds survive, and are one of the 25% that will see their first birthday, they have learned well.
But lessons aren't over.
Bird Hygiene is vital as well.
You have witnessed blue jays, robins and other birds teach they young ones how to bathe.
They bring their offspring to a birdbath, mud puddle, sprinkler, wet leaves.
The little one stands on the edge and watches his mom or dad go in, and splash and scatter the water.
He/she fluttered his wings, and was eager to try it for himself, but seemed afraid to plunge in.
Some birds like this Juvenile cardinal has learned the fine art of leafing as a shower/bath.
Food is always a motivator and often works for bath time too.
You may also see some birds bathing or flying through sprinklers.
After a bath, preening is the next life lesson and you may watch this too.
A careful watcher will see birds giving some of these baby bird lessons, and many others as interesting and entertaining.
I see it as an educational lesson for me as well.
The key to observation is to be quiet and still, and not frighten the birds.
Be sure to place water near protection.
A wet bird is a slow bird, and slow birds often don't survive.
A tree or shrubs nearby are always welcome.
(Sandhill Cranes Migrating South.)
To continue on living, many species of birds must migrate.
Migration is dictated on the length of daylight hours, not warm or cold weather.
And it certainly isn't dictated on you keeping your feeders up or not.
For many birds, it is simply following the food trail.
Many of our birds migrate to various southern locations for the winter months.
Some species migrate from Northern Canada to the northern tier or two of states.
Others may migrate to the Caribbean Islands, Latin America and even to the southern parts of South America
These birds are known as Neotropical birds.
Many birds must be taught the migration trail as large flocks gather and move by the thousands.
Some species like Sandhill cranes will remain with their parents until they return north and are finally chased off.
For some species of birds, school does indeed last for several months.
In all of this amazing bird schooling, there is the little hummingbird.
Yes, the jewel of our gardens.
Records show that hummers are quiet during feeding.
Unlike other birds, where babies squawk and parents may make a sound or two, mother and babies remain silent.
Not a squawk.
Not even a peep.
Hummingbird fledging is usually sudden.
After several days of hanging on tight and exercising its wings, the little bird lets go and flies short distance from the nest.
These little birds are still dependent on mom for a short time, but instinct allows for them to tongue flick everything within reach.
As flight capabilities improve, the young hummers begin to forage on it own.
Still, the dependency on mom is still there and the young hummers let out a high pitched squeak.
After a few short lessons on where to find food, the fledgling hummingbird is left to fend for itself.
Few skills are taught as they now become competition for food (or so the adults see it that way).
This especially holds true with Ruby-throated hummingbirds as they will chase off their own fledglings from a territory.
I see this take place in late summer every year.
Bath time usually consists of flying through a fine sprinkler, or a mister.
Hummers enjoy a wet leaf too (leafing).
Hummers are the only species of bird without down feathers (gives you an idea how tightly packed the feathers are).
The most amazing thing about hummingbirds.....................
The God given gift of migration that hummingbirds have.
Instinctively juvenile hummingbirds know to pack on the weight in late summer and early fall.
When the time is right, they head south.
Without a parent or flocks to follow.
Juvenile hummers will take off on their own (usually after the adults have left).
If they survive the rigors of migration, most will successfully make it to the species wintering habitat.
I might add, that keeping your feeders up will not deter migration.
In fact, your feeders often make a difference in the survival of migrating hummingbirds.
And the cycle continues.
Amazing creatures, our birds.
(Below is pictured some Green Heron Fledglings in my yard a couple years ago, and A fledge Cardinal being fed.)
Our 'Creator' really blessed us when he made birds.
Well, it's time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
It is good to dream, but it is better to dream and work.
Faith is mighty, but action with faith is mightier. Thomas Robert Gaines
I think we all need dreams.
As long as we don't simply dream our life away.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”
Show me your faith without your works,
and I will show you my faith by my works.
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2 18 and 20 (NIV)
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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