By Dr. Madeline Kalbach
For the Observer
Autumn is here and birdbaths are still in fashion. The permanent residents such as the song sparrow, robin and the chestnut-backed chickadee are still making use of the birdbath on a daily basis. The cleanest bird in the neighborhood is the song sparrow. It visits at least four times a day to “splish, splash while takin’ a bath.” The chestnut-backed chickadee still brings its family along for visits to the birdbath. The family of six visit together every day to share in the fun. The robin, like the song sparrow, thinks it owns the birdbath. It will sit in the middle of the bath with wings spread so no other bird can get into the water. The chickadees try, but to no avail. They end up hanging on to the edge of the bath, for dear life as they wait their turn.
There are newcomers to the bath now that Fall has arrived. Ruby-crowned kinglets and golden-crowned kinglets spend most of their time high in the trees foraging for insect snacks. They are also permanent residents on the Refuge and the Peninsula, but are seldom seen up close during the breeding season. They can be heard, but are not easily seen. These two species compete with one another when they fancy a bath. If both want a bath or a drink at the same time — the chase is on! Finally, when all is said and done, it is usually the golden-crowned female who wins out. After she has finished, the ruby-crowned kinglet will be allowed a turn.
Our Fall migrants are arriving now in greater numbers. Sparrows are among the new seasonal residents. The golden-crowned sparrow is one of them. it is non-breeding bird in our area, but they are plentiful in bushy areas and fields at this time. They will stay with us until spring when they leave for their northern breeding grounds. One of the golden-crowns wearing its non-breeding plumage has been stopping by this week to bathe and drink. It is more timid than the song sparrow, but when its turn arrives it is in the bath for the duration!
A water source is an important part of helping the birds get through their days in every season. Bathing and drinking are part of their daily rituals. Be sure to keep your birdbath going throughout the fall and winter. Other newcomers are coming to visit too, but I’ll tell you that story another day!