Nest Building or What to Look for in Late April

Black-capped Chickadee with nesting material (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)We're already into late April, Chuck Tague has already published his "What to Look for," and I'm late publishing mine.  I hope we didn't miss anything!

Here's what I've seen recently and what I'm looking forward to in April's remaining days:

  • Songbirds are building nests.  Robins are already on eggs.  Other species will be carrying nesting material.  If you brush your dog, leave its fur in the back yard and birds like this black-capped chickadee will collect it for their nests.
  • Peregrine falcon eggs will hatch at the Pittsburgh nests.  This year the female peregrines laid earlier than usual so both nests will hatch in late April.  Watch them on the webcams here.
  • More migrants will return:  blue-gray gnatcatchers, pine warblers, northern parulas, chimney swifts, barn swallows, house wrens, hermit thrushes and ruby-crowned kinglets.  I used to see my first ruby-crowned kinglet of the year exactly on Earth Day (April 22) in my back yard.  It was probably the same individual because the pattern ceased at about the life expectancy of a kinglet.  I remember him fondly.
  • Spring wildflowers galore!  Visit a nearby woodland to find violets, large-flowered trillium, trout lilies, Virginia bluebells and many, many more.  Go on a nature walk with the Wissahickon Nature Club or visit Enlow Fork on April 26 for the The Enlow Fork Total Ecology Extravaganza starting at 8:00am.  (Note as of 4/19/09:  The road to Enlow Fork is a dirt road and is torn up for construction of a coal conveyor belt.  It is passable but you must go slow!)
  • More leaves!  The trees will fill out as their leaves unfurl.
  • Listen for toads trilling and look for butterflies - spring azures, cabbage whites, eastern commas and mourning cloaks.
  • Be careful in the woods if you hear a turkey calling.  Spring Gobbler hunting season is April 18 for junior hunters, April 25 - May 25 for all.  Turkey hunters wear camoflauge and use turkey calls to attract the birds toward them.  There's plenty of safe time: the hunt stops at midday and there's no hunting on Sundays.
  • And Trout Season begins today.  Expect to see lots of fishermen at local streams.

Get outdoors and enjoy it.  As I said in my last phenology, April is the frenzied month.  My, how time flies in the spring!

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

3 thoughts on “Nest Building or What to Look for in Late April

  1. Kate,

    My husband was in Maryland yesterday and while he was there, he heard a WOOD THRUSH singing. I hope that means they’ll be here soon! Their flute-like song is my favorite of all of our western PA songbirds.


  2. Last year, I put out a feeder for hummingbirds, but towards mid-summer. I actually saw one, twice which was thrilling.

    Do you know when the proper time to put the feeder out would be? Should I do it now? When do they get here?

    Also, I have a robin’s nest, and tons of nests of little brown birds – in that pine tree. Last year a mourning dove pair made their nest in there and it looks like they are aiming to again…

    Is that normal? For a variety of differnt birds to all nest in one tree??

    And finally, a long time ago I had been told that you should stop feeding the birds in the Spring to encourage them to forage naturally. Normally, that’s what I would do. But this Spring, I find that I don’t want to stop feeding them because I enjoy watching all the different varieties that come – cardinals, robins, those plain little brown birds, a shiny small black bird, and sometimes something that looks like a canary…and my favorite, the morning doves.

    Would I harm them or somehow disrupt their natural cycles – if I continue to feed them? They end up in the yard anyways, once my sunflowers bloom (I grow them for the birds)…

    Any guidance would be so appreciated!


  3. The hummingbirds are almost here on their migration north. One’s been reported on April 4 in southwestern PA. Time to put up your feeders! A map of their progress can be found here:

    It is normal for several species to nest in the same good spot such as your pine tree. They all have different needs so they aren’t competing with each other.

    Here’s Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s advice about feeding birds in spring/summer:

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