Every year in June and July, I love to remark to customers that their bird feeder activity is crazy busy because “there’s more birds in the world!”
Just about daily during the peak of the breeding season, more eggs are laid, more eggs are hatched, and more nestlings leave the nest into the big, wide world around us. Where there were two birds, there are now six or seven. And in species that have two or more broods each season, there are now eight or ten!
Let me take you into my yard and play this scenario out. Each summer, I tend to have about 19 species of birds visiting my yard and eating at my bird feeders. And to simplify this, let’s just say I have 2 of each species to start with, a male and a female bird. So by late spring when migration is done, I have 38 birds of 19 different species regularly visiting my yard.
I do have a great assortment of birds at my bird feeders throughout the year like chickadees, jays, 3 different woodpeckers, nuthatches, juncos, titmice and more. They are joined during the summer months by migrants like Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Chipping Sparrows and others.
During nesting season, most of these birds have one brood of young, though some, like cardinals, doves, and robins regularly have two or even three. And each species has a range of brood size, most of them around 5. Hummingbirds and doves typically only have 2 eggs per brood, while Hairy Woodpeckers and Blue Jays can have upwards of 5 to 6 per brood.
So by the time my 38 birds have a typical number of young, the number of birds in my yard has more than tripled! My 19 pairs of adults are now tending to 96 awkward and begging and sometimes very noisy young. Why does my yard seem so busy and active and loud? Because where there were 38 birds in late spring, there are now 134 birds!
Now I realize I have oversimplified this for illustration’s sake. Some yards have more than one breeding pair which of course would push the count even higher. On the other hand, a number of nests filled with eggs or nestlings are lost to predation and natural causes. And many birds, especially this season’s young, are lost to window strikes, predation, and natural causes. There are many factors, natural or otherwise, that can drive this number higher or lower.
But one of the joys of feeding the birds in your yard is being able to witness this miracle each summer. Besides exclaiming that “there are more birds in the world”, I also like to refer to our yards as a “bird nursery”, filled with adults tending to young and introducing them to the accessible and plentiful bounty provided by the bird feeders in our yard.