river talk

Two timely arrivals

By SANDY LONG
Posted 5/26/20

Right around this time every year, hummingbirds return to the Upper Delaware River region. Local folks began reporting sightings via social media during the first week of May. In my Pike County …

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river talk

Two timely arrivals

Posted

Right around this time every year, hummingbirds return to the Upper Delaware River region. Local folks began reporting sightings via social media during the first week of May. In my Pike County backyard, a male and female showed up on May 4 and began feasting at the feeders I hurriedly filled with sugar water (see recipe in the photo caption).

The ruby-throated hummingbird is eastern North America’s sole breeding hummingbird, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This spectacular species beats its wings roughly 53 times per second and performs high-precision flight maneuvers that will take your breath away. In addition to hanging feeders, you can attract this delicate bird to your yard by planting tubular red flowers such as bee balm. In my yard, hummingbirds also frequent the pink bell-like flowers of heuchera (coral bells).

Another feathered friend that typically visits at this time is the rose-breasted grosbeak. This year, we haven’t seen the showier males, but a beautiful female showed up on April 29 and stayed around for several days, diligently harvesting the black sunflower seeds in our window feeder.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are stocky birds with large triangular bills and breast patches that differ in color for males and females. Males sport red breast plates and black heads, while females display a pale-yellow triangle on their breast, along with a white eyebrow.

Once paired, rose-breasted grosbeaks appear to be monogamous, sharing incubation, brooding and feeding duties during the two-week incubation period and nine to 12 day nestling period.

According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, rose-breasted grosbeak populations declined by approximately 35 percent between 1966 to 2015. Today, the species rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, with an estimated global breeding population of 4.1 million.

Both species are inspiring to observe and a colorful reminder of the natural wonders in our own backyards and neighborhoods.

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