As the sun warms the earth and the days grow longer, our feathered friends come alive with a vibrant display of activity and song. Summer is the perfect season to immerse yourself in the beauty of birds, whether you're an avid birdwatcher or simply someone who enjoys the melodious tunes that fill the air. Here we'll explore some of the most active birds during the summer, answer common questions about bird care and behavior, and share tips for making the most of bird-watching season. Get ready to discover the fascinating world of summer birds!

What are the most active birds in the summer?

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow |

Barn Swallows are migratory birds known for their forked tails and are highly active during the summer in North America, pursuing insects with incredible speed and agility. These skilled aerial hunters help control fly, moth, and mosquito populations, contributing to a more pleasant outdoor experience for humans. Highly social, they often form small colonies, protecting each other's nests and communicating with various calls and chirps. By the end of summer, they gather in large numbers on electricity lines and fences in preparation for their long migration to warmer regions. These birds build nests under eaves, bridges, and culverts, with up to three broods a season. Their presence is not only a sign of summer but also a reminder of the interconnectedness of nature, as they follow warmth and food sources across vast distances. Barn Swallows are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, highlighting the importance of preserving these common yet vital birds for future generations.

Downy woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker | Audubon Field Guide

In North America, the Downy Woodpecker is highly active and vocal during the summer months. These acrobatic birds are frequently seen hitching around tree limbs and trunks or dropping into tall weeds to feed on galls, displaying their distinctive rising-and-falling flight style. They inhabit open woodlands, deciduous forests, orchards, city parks, and backyards, thriving even in fragmented suburban areas. Summer is a particularly noisy season for Downy Woodpeckers, as they produce their shrill whinnying calls and drum on trees to communicate and establish territory. During this time, they are busy raising their young in tree cavities, with parents diligently feeding their rapidly growing brood. The Downy Woodpecker plays a crucial role in controlling insect populations, consuming a diet predominantly composed of insects, including wood-boring beetles and other pests. Their adaptability and preference for open, second-growth forests help maintain stable populations across their range, despite the challenges posed by habitat loss and predation.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Identification, All About Birds ...

In the summer, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds grace the skies of North America with their extraordinary hovering abilities and iridescent plumage. These tiny gems migrate from Central America, embarking on a long and arduous journey to reach their breeding grounds across the central and eastern states. Throughout the summer, they are a common sight at flowers and feeders, where they consume nectar and small insects. This season is crucial for Ruby-throats as they breed, raise their young, and prepare for the long migration back south. Their presence is marked by frequent visits to gardens, where their rapid wing beats and vibrant colors bring a unique vibrancy to the summer landscape. As the days shorten, these hummingbirds begin to store energy, preparing for their southward journey that many will start as early as July, although most will depart in August or September. During this period, it's essential to maintain feeders to support both adult and juvenile hummingbirds as they gather strength for the flight to Central America.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal Identification, All About Birds, Cornell ...

In the summer, Northern Cardinals are a prominent and vibrant presence across North America, particularly known for their striking red plumage and melodic whistles that fill the morning air. During this season, these birds are busy with nesting and raising their young, often found in dense shrubs and low branches. Males are particularly vigilant, defending their territory and bringing food to the females who are incubating the eggs. Once the chicks hatch, both parents are involved in feeding and caring for the young. Cardinals are ground foragers, primarily eating seeds, fruits, and insects. Their presence is often noted in backyards and parks, where their bright red color and distinctive songs make them easy to spot. The growth of suburban areas has helped expand their range, making them a familiar sight in many regions.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay | Audubon Field Guide

In the summer, Blue Jays in North America are highly active, particularly busy with nesting and raising their young. Early in the season, they are secretive, diligently caring for their nests. Males bring food to females who rarely leave the nest during incubation and chick-rearing. As summer progresses, Blue Jays form noisy family groups, traveling together and often clearing bird feeders of smaller birds. Their bold behavior includes mimicking hawk calls to scare other birds and attacking predators like owls. They remain devoted parents, with fledglings staying with the family throughout the season.

When to stop feeding birds in the summer?

Generally, there is no strict need to stop feeding birds in the summer, as many birds, including non-migratory species, benefit from supplemental food sources year-round and would not become too dependent. However, if you choose to reduce or stop feeding, early to mid-summer is often a suitable time. This period coincides with an abundance of natural food sources such as insects, seeds, and berries. It's essential to consider that continuing to provide food can support fledgling birds and ensure they have a reliable food source during their critical development phase. Also, keeping feeders clean and ensuring fresh food will help prevent the spread of diseases.

How to help birds in the summer?

Helping birds in the summer involves providing essential resources and creating a safe environment to support their well-being during the hot months. One of the most important things you can do is to provide fresh, clean water. Set up birdbaths or shallow dishes of water in shaded areas to help birds stay hydrated and cool. Refill these water sources regularly to ensure they remain clean and safe. Additionally, you can create a bird-friendly habitat by planting native trees and shrubs that offer shade, food, and nesting sites. Flowers that produce nectar, such as bee balm and trumpet vine, attract hummingbirds and other nectar-feeding birds. Installing bird feeders with seeds or suet can also supplement their diet, especially in areas where natural food sources may be scarce due to heat. Avoid using pesticides in your garden, as these chemicals can harm birds and their food sources. Providing nesting boxes and ensuring they are placed in safe locations away from predators is another way to help. Finally, keeping your pets, especially cats, indoors or supervised can reduce the risk of bird predation. By implementing these practices, you can create a supportive environment that helps birds thrive during the challenging summer months.

What is the best time for bird observation in the summer?

Early summer is the best time to watch birds since they are the most active during this time. And the best time to watch birds in a day is during the early morning hours, typically from dawn until around 10 AM. During this time, birds are most active and vocal as they forage for food to fuel their day, making it easier to spot a variety of species. The cooler temperatures and calm winds of the early morning also contribute to optimal bird-watching conditions, as birds are less likely to be hiding in the shade to escape the midday heat. Additionally, late afternoon, just before dusk, can also be a good time to observe birds as they become active again after the hottest part of the day has passed.

Do birds eat suet in the summer?

Yes, birds can eat suet in the summer, but it requires some precautions to ensure it remains safe and appealing for them. Suet can spoil quickly in the summer heat, becoming rancid and potentially harmful to birds. To prevent this, it is recommended to use no-melt suet or suet dough specifically designed to withstand higher temperatures. Additionally, placing suet feeders in shaded areas can help keep them cooler and prolong their freshness. It's also beneficial to offer smaller portions and replace them more frequently to ensure the suet remains fresh and safe for consumption.

Why do birds sing less in late summer?

In late summer, birds sing less for several reasons. By the end of July, most chicks have fledged and no longer require the territorial or mating calls that dominated the soundscape in May and June. Adult birds, busy rearing their young and teaching them survival skills for migration, shift their focus from singing to foraging. Additionally, as the breeding season ends, the need to attract mates or defend territories diminishes, resulting in quieter behavior. Another factor is the start of molting, during which birds replace their feathers in preparation for migration or winter. During this period, birds tend to be more subdued to conserve energy and avoid drawing attention to themselves while they are temporarily less capable of flight. This quieter time coincides with the arrival of migratory shorebirds, adding a new dynamic to the birdwatching experience as these species take the stage in different habitats.

How do birds keep cool in the summer?

Birds use a variety of strategies to stay cool during the summer heat. One common method is panting, similar to how dogs cool down, which increases evaporative cooling. Birds also flutter their throat muscles in a process known as gular fluttering to increase air flow and heat dissipation. Some species seek shade or take advantage of cool breezes by perching in areas with good air circulation. Additionally, birds will reduce their activity during the hottest parts of the day and may take frequent baths to wet their feathers, enhancing evaporative cooling as the water evaporates. Behavioral adaptations, such as positioning their bodies to minimize sun exposure and using their wings to shade themselves, also play a crucial role in thermoregulation.

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