Feeding birds is entertaining

Published 1:33 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

I glanced out my kitchen window at the bare limbs of the popcorn tree in the back yard and saw movement. A small bird that I couldn’t identify flitted in and landed on a limb. Before I could grab my bird book, it flew away. A few weeks ago, some activity at the same tree caught my eye. Cedar waxwings rushed in and in record time stripped it of the little white wax-coated seeds that look like popcorn. They left as swiftly as they arrived. I was lucky that I looked up from my kitchen sink when they appeared. Once or twice before, I had seen some flock to a cedar tree and strip its berries in a matter of minutes, then depart simultaneously.

The bird feeders have gone unattended for some time in the back yard, so I’ve missed the goldfinches, cardinals, wrens, sparrows, and other birds that frequented them. I especially miss those entertaining but pugnacious hummingbirds that try to keep each other away from the feeders. After I received an e-mail from Fred Bassett of Montgomery who bands hummingbirds, I decided I need to hang my hummingbird feeders in that popcorn tree. According to Fred’s report, there are plenty of winter hummingbirds buzzing around various places in south Alabama right now. Besides banding Ruby-throated that are the most prevalent in our area, he’s banding Rufouses, Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, and even an Allen’s.

Fred set up in the dark at Jim Dickerson’s Lillian home in December to catch and band a Buff-bellied. It was the eighth hummingbird species he had banded at the Dickerson home over the years. Mr. Dickerson holds the record for the most species of hummingbirds banded at any home east of Louisiana. Fred also banded two Rufouses and a Black-chinned at the Dickerson’s. He recaptured a Rufous he had banded there two years ago. He returned there this month to band another Buff-bellied.

If you happen to see a pink mark on a hummer’s head when it wings by, don’t jump to the conclusion that you’ve discovered a new species. It’s just a mark Fred and a Tallahassee Fla., man make to help identify hummers easier. It’s hard to see the bands, Fred explained.

Although hummingbirds certainly pique my curiosity most, another fascinating bird is the goldfinch. They are so beautiful. Once as I was replenishing several little goldfinch bags dangling from my clothesline, one sat on the fence near-by, then flew in close to me, making little noises. It landed some distance away on the clothesline where it sat watching. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind that this little bird had complete trust in my furnishing it and its fellow goldfinches with something to eat. Once I backed off, it winged its way to a feeder and dug in.

Now that I’ve recalled the fun of feeding and watching my backyard visitors, I might just fill all my feeders. Then I’ll sit back and enjoy myself again.