Backyard Birding

Add Bird Watching to Your Summer Fun

summer tanager

Whether you are on the screened porch sipping iced tea, doing some work in the garden, or enjoying a sunrise nature walk, remarkable birds of impressive variety are everywhere in the Triangle region.

It is a delight to see the variety of species observed in fewer than three hours on our bird walks led by an expert birder. These walks provide an educational and enjoyable encounter with nature, emphasizing the identification and observation of birds in their habitat. The group departs in the early morning and, upon return, jots the day’s bird list on the chalkboard.

In a recent walk led by Tom Driscoll, the group identified 40 species, ranging from awe-striking birds of prey and regal waterfowl to year-round songbirds and summer residents. A dozen neo-tropic migrants that arrived to breed in our region and reside for the summer, included six warblers—the Northern Parula, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Prothonotary, Blackpoll, and Yellow-throated, as well as others species such as the Red-eyed Vireo, Great-crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Among these migrants was the group’s proclaimed “bird of the day,” the Orchard Oriole.

You are less apt to see our summer guests at your bird feeders since most are attracted to caterpillars and insects found in a wooded environment.

Keep an ear tuned and you may hear the tireless question-and-answering whistle of the Red-eyed Vireo or the low, then high “wee-eep” of the Great-crested Flycatcher. You may see the Vireo in the tree canopy gleaning leaves for lunch, or the flycatcher swooping for flying insects.

Warblers may stop by your feeder on rare occasions, but mainly covet feeding sources such as forest re-growth or hardwoods, especially oak trees, which attract anthropods—a favorite of our summer birds. Summer Tanagers, often described as the “other red bird,” are known to eat suet, even showing this food source to their kids. Indigo Buntings, a traditional ground feeder and bright-blue beauty, may be attracted with brush piles and millet. Orchard Orioles eat insects, but are also attracted to blossoming trees and fruit.

The popular Ruby-throated Hummingbird is attracted to a variety of flowering plants, such as trumpet creeper, bee balm, and honeysuckle, but also appreciates the nectar supplied by hummingbird feeders. Be sure to change the nectar (four parts water; one part sugar) at least twice a week because it ferments.

Now, sit back, relax, be observant, and enjoy the wonders of summer.

For more information on birds and to hear their songs, visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Tracy Rehberg is the owner of the Wild Bird Center of Chapel Hill. The store helps Triangle residents enhance their backyard bird feeding experience. For additional information, visit

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