It’s winter, yet some bird species have begun spring mating rituals
What’s been seen: There really is no “business as usual” in the avian world. While we certainly can predict generally what birds will be in a certain space at a certain time of the year, we usually are thrown for a surprise or two most times we head outdoors and really focus on the wildlife.
January is the doldrums of the year, with very little movement. The fight for survival for any species that lives outdoors in New England can be a tough one. Food is scarce. In some cases, it will cause an individual bird to stay very localized, such as the belted kingfisher that hung around the Weir River inner estuary throughout January.
Other species move in flocks – if one finds food, they all find food – like the 17 snow buntings seen at Pemberton Point on Jan. 26 and the 44 horned larks identified at Nantasket Beach on Feb. 1. Both these species, by the way, will migrate to breed, so catch a glimpse of them while you can.
What to expect this month: Believe it or not, there are some species of birds that have begun their spring mating rituals right here in Hull, in the depths of the coldest month of the year. Male red-breasted mergansers, waterfowl seen just offshore, have started competition for choice females, performing dance maneuvers they believe will separate them from the other males.
By the end of the month, more species will be in on the act. Watch for buffleheads, our smallest ducks, to look like they’re playing, splashing one another. Listen for black-capped chickadees to sing their spring songs, as they did in January. Watch for red-tailed hawks to sit on the same branch together. And if there is a great horned owl pair in Hull, the female will be on her nest by mid-month.
By March 1, the migrants will begin to stir if the conditions permit. The ducks will start to go away; our seascapes will be less vibrant; and the focus will shift back to the trees, the yards, the river, the beach. Believe it or not, spring is on the way.