Early morning is a good time to be outdoors for exercise, watering the garden, or even sitting with a cup of coffee. Winds are usually calm around sunrise, and the temperature hasn’t climbed to uncomfortable levels yet. Early morning is also good time to enjoy bird songs that are typically at their best at that time of day. If listening to bird songs is something you really enjoy, then you’d better make a date to listen to some soon. Their singing has already begun to taper off, and by mid August only be a few will still be singing.
Male birds begin singing in spring or even late winter to attract a mate and to establish and later defend a nesting territory from other birds of their kind. They want good nest sites and food resources to be available without a lot of competition in order to successfully raise their young. They continue singing into the summer even as the hard work of feeding a nest or two of young goes on. Many species of birds are nearly done with their reproductive work for the year, and no longer need to defend a nesting territory. Some, like swallows, will soon be gathering into flocks in preparation for late summer migration. Defending a nesting territory is no longer necessary for all but a few species like house wrens and gold finches which continue to nest well into August. The majority of our songbirds are shifting from reproduction to building energy reserves for the coming migration. Singing and engaging in occasional territorial fights like they did a few weeks ago has become a waste of time and energy.
With the exception of late-nesting species, you’ll seldom see a bird carrying food as they did when feeding hungry nestlings. They’ll gobble down what they find where they find it and keep looking for more. Although they’re no longer singing exuberantly from a conspicuous perch as they did when defending a nesting territory, they’re not entirely quiet, either. Young birds, though feeding themselves, often stay together in loose family groups with their parents. The families keep track of each other with those shorter, softer phrases. By August most bird songs will be little more that a soft whisper interspersed with a few chirps here and there.
Birds get some of their water needs from foods they eat. Berries and insects have higher moisture content, but seeds don’t provide much. Bird feeder activity may be less, but a bird bath may become increasingly important if heat and lack of rain continue to reduce the number of natural water sources. Birds still like to bathe. It doesn’t take them very long to dirty the water in a small bird bath, and dirty water can spread diseases. Would you like drinking bath water that many others had already bathed in? Dirty water should be flushed out, and fresh water added every day or two. A good scrubbing with a stiff brush and 10% bleach water every week will help reduce algae buildup and the chance of disease spread.
Although it may seem quieter without so much bird song, nature is seldom truly quiet. A good listener can tell each season by its special sounds. Insect “songs” will gradually replace bird songs as the summer wears on. They may not be defending territories, but they are trying to attract mates. Katydids, cicadas, and crickets are adding their voices to late summer afternoons and evenings. Keep your ears open to the music of the seasons.