June:: Baby Birds Fly
This month, watch for all birds feeding their young. The baby birds, now almost as big as their parents, beg for food relentlessly, and parents are hard-pressed to keep up with their appetites. This is when parents sometimes lead young to your feeders, giving you an opportunity to see the youngsters in action. Get a local bird guide to identify them from their parents.
Left: Hooded Oriole, mature male
Hooded Oriole young are fledging and starting to come to nectar feeders. The youngsters are bright yellow with brown streaky wings, unlike their deep orange fathers with black wings and throat. The slim orioles dart between trees, probing for fruit, nectar flowers or insects. As they fledge their young, an extra nectar feeder gets the young birds off to a good start.
California Towhees are mainly seed eaters, and, when you see them, they are mostly in pairs. But now they will be looking for worms and other high-protein fare to feed their young. Spotted Towhees may join them wherever worms are available. Both are large (8 inches) sparrows that often feed on the ground and, as a result, sometimes fall victim to cats.
With summer here and doors often left open, you may get a visit from one of our boldest local residents, a Western Scrub Jay. Jays always remember where they got a peanut and may perch in a bush near a door begging loudly for another peanut or two. They may even fly in a door if they think they might get fed. Noisy, gregarious and entertaining, jays can be a welcome summer visitor.
House Finch young can be seen at feeders. Unlike other seed eaters, who feed their young high-protein worms, house finches are exclusively vegetarian. So, as soon as they can move around at all, the fledglings show up at your feeders. You may need to add millet to your regular mix for June and July to keep them happy.
Hummingbirds continue to nest. Though some started nesting as early as January here in Southern California, they may continue to lay eggs, two or three clutches, until weather gets really hot. Keep your feeders full and fresh, changing the nectar every four days when it is very warm.
The sweet song of Black-Headed Grosbeaks may be heard in a higher register as the young are fledging and coming to feeders. They especially love sunflower seeds, and their beaks are designed to crack the shells effortlessly (if you have shells). You might even find them visiting your oriole feeders for a bit of nectar.
The Grosbeaks may be singing sweetly, but, by June most warblers and other migrating songbirds have left Southern California. But, never fear, by fall they will be back..