It is April, and spring has sprung for the birds. Every morning in the predawn hours, when I go outside to collect my newspaper, I am welcomed by birdsongs.
These cheery songs are a comfort, especially now in these unsettling times. While we are being bombarded with COVID-19 updates and practicing social distancing, the birds are unaffected and going about their usual spring rituals.
One of these rituals is spring migration. This is when birds leave their wintering grounds and fly north to their summer nesting grounds. We are fortunate in New Mexico to be on a major migratory pathway for a variety of bird species. Some of these migrating birds will travel through New Mexico heading to nesting grounds farther north. Others will make New Mexico their final destination and settle in to nest and raise a family.
Here are some of the common backyard birds to look and listen for right now in New Mexico:
This common and familiar bird is often the harbinger of spring. Robins are fairly large, averaging about 10 inches long, with a dark head and rusty belly. Listen for their beautiful singing in the predawn hours and at dusk. Robins love to splash in birdbaths.
Curve-billed Thrasher: Another large bird, averaging 11 inches long, is brownish overall with a long, slightly curved bill. Thrashers are found in desert landscapes and often build their nests in cholla cactus. Thrashers are a member of the mimid family of birds, known for their beautiful, varied songs. Look for the male thrasher to be perched on the top of a piñon tree or cactus when singing. Thrashers will eat dried mealworms, suet and sunflower seed.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird: This is usually our first arriving hummingbird. The male has a green back, buffy breast and a red throat. Females have similar coloration, with no color on the throat. Listen for the loud, whistle-like sound the male hummingbird makes with its wings. Now is the time to put out a nectar feeder with a sugar water solution of four parts water to one part white table sugar (no red coloring needed) to get a close-up view of this amazing little bird.
Western Tanager: This gorgeous bird, about 7 ½ inches long, is hard to miss. This tanager has a yellow body, orange-red head and black wings with white wing bars. Watch for this colorful bird at your birdbath. Tanagers can also be attracted by providing grape jelly and suet.
This virus has many of us staying home to reduce the spread in our communities, but it doesn’t have to keep us from enjoying our natural surroundings and the birds that inhabit them. The National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology are two trusted organizations that have many fun and educational activities to keep you and your family connected to the birds while at home. Go to birds.cornell.edu/home and audubon.org for more information. Be well and stay healthy.
Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. She’s a lifelong birder and author of “For the Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard.”