March: Nests and Babies Nature Happenings

 

Beautiful Western Bluebirds used to be hard to find. These blue and rust robin-sized birds must nest in cavities, such as holes in dead trees, and standing dead trees get cut down pretty quickly in suburbia. About 20 years ago a campaign was started to provide bluebird boxes in prime bluebird habitat: open lawns with big trees, such as golf courses, parks and cemeteries. As a result, these beauties are becoming more common in urban areas. But, they still need help. If you live near bluebird habitat, consider hanging a bluebird nesting box in one of your big trees. Or you could put out a cup of live mealworms, their favorite food. If you do, you may hear excited chirping from above, as baby bluebirds clamor, “More worms!”

Left: Western Bluebird with worm (All About Birds)

Project FeederWatch continues until April 1. Sign up to be a citizen-scientist for this year's project and contribute to the knowledge about birds in your area. Visit our FeederWatch (https://santamonica.wbu.com/feeder-watch-2021) page for more information.

                                                                                                                            Below: Black-headed Grosbeak

Orioles and Black-Headed Grosbeaks start moving through the area mid- to late-month. They're not called Grosbeaks for nothing. The sturdy beaks on these birds are big enough to crunch most seed shells, especially black oil sunflower, which they adore. Black-Headed Grosbeaks will begin moving into SoCal by the middle of the month and will love to find sunflower seeds scattered under your bushes.

Orioles, on the other hand, love fruit and fruit nectars, such as our Bird Berry Jelly. They will be looking for palm trees, where they build their soft hanging nests under sheltering fronds.

 

 

Left: California Gnatcatcher male

Tiny gray California Gnatcatchers arrive this month and start breeding, the males showing their fuzzy black breeding crowns until midsummer. The gnatcatchers look very much like another efficient bug eater, Bushtits, but watch for a white ring around the eye and a more svelte body line than the plump Bushtits. These birds like the coast even though they have lost much of their coastal sage scrub habitat to development. Plant native bushes to bring them to your yard.

 

 

March is a time for color for birds as well as flowers. American Goldfinches molt to their brightest yellow, while red-headed male House Finches get an even brighter color (best way to attract the girls). The intense blue of the male Western Bluebirds is everywhere.

                                                  Right: American Goldfinch with brightest colors

And with brighter color comes mating, nest-building and feeding babies, all of which takes a lot of energy. So keep feeders full of seed for the Goldfinches and House Finches, or set out a cup of live worms for the Bluebirds and Black Phoebes.

March is not known for its meteor showers—April and May are more active—but the γ-Normid shower will peak around March 14. Radiating from the constellation Norma, the meteors are best seen from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. Daylight time, when Norma drops below the horizon.