|It's not unusual to see baby birds through the end of summer. This juvenile house finch was photographed in Mission Viejo on August 24th last year.|
Birds are busy this time of year.
“August is an exciting time,” said Trude Hurd, project director of education for Sea and Sage Audubon. “It’s a transitional period.”
There’s still a lot going on in the avian world in August. The breeding season is not yet over for many species. “Many songbirds have two to three broods, or hatchings, so some are still raising their young,” Hurd said.
Mourning doves have a particularly prolonged breeding season. These common Orange County birds can have up to six broods per year, so it’s not unusual to hear the mating coos of the male and see nesting doves this month.
American and lesser goldfinches – common backyard birds and year-round residents of Southern California – are some of the last species to breed. They generally wait until late summer when many plants have gone to seed and food is plentiful. They usually nest in the outlaying canyon areas near water, then return to urban birdfeeders with their babies.
By August other species have finished breeding and are getting ready to migrate.
“Fall migration has already started with shorebirds,” Hurd said. “We’ve seen some early arrivals at the marsh.”
And soon the tropical birds that spent spring and summer in Orange County such as swallows, terns and orioles, will start returning to their wintering grounds to the south, she said.
By the end of August, many songbirds have started to molt, a systematic process of replacing feathers. “Molting usually kicks in after breeding because it’s very calorie-intensive activity,” Hurd said.
Many species undergo a complete molt on or near their breeding grounds, which allows them to migrate south with a new set of feathers.
Birds tend to become secretive while molting, vocalizing infrequently and hiding in the vegetation. That’s because they’re more vulnerable to predators during molt, especially when growing new flight feathers. It may take weeks or months for them to complete the molting cycle.
“If you want to help the birds, provide clean water, especially in summer,” Hurd said. “Be sure to scrub out birdbaths and change the water daily.” Stagnant water can play host to bacteria, as well as mosquito larvae, which can carry the West Nile virus.