February: Love Is in the Air

Love is in the air and not just because of the human Valentine's Day. Birds, too, begin to think about nesting and babies in February.

Left: Scrub Jay enjoys Bark Butter suet

Our local California Scrub Jays are sizing up candidates for their long-term, some say lifetime, partners. By the end of the month, they will begin nesting. Jays live in families. The young from the year before stay near their parents and often help with rearing the next year's clutch of eggs. They establish their own territory only when they start to breed.

Western Bluebirds on nesting box

Beautiful Western Bluebirds also are finding mates and looking for homes. Unfortunately, they tend to nest in hollow dead trees, something in short supply in suburbia. You can help them by hanging up a bluebird box close to their favorite hangouts, any place with lawns and big trees, such as golf courses, parks and cemeteries.

--Even tiny Bushtits get amorous, leaving their big flocks to pair off and nest. To feed their babies they will do an especially good job of cleaning your bushes of insects, such as aphids.

With all this romance comes heavy activity at your feeders, as birds fatten up to defend territory and raise young or, in some cases, prepare to migrate north. Look for Evening Grosbeaks at your feeders looking for black oil sunflower seeds.

Almost as tiny as the Bushtit is the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, which also forages energetically for tiny insects. Its red crest shows only when the male is singing brightly in the spring.

It's just four days, but Feb. 12-15, 2021, is one of the year's most important bird counts, The Great Backyard Bird Count (https://www.birdcount.org/). A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Audubon Society and Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada,
Great Backyard Bird Count, mid-month, www.birdsource.org/gbbc