I have a few miscellaneous topics in this post. The first concerns woodpeckers with a sweet tooth. I received two emails recently from bird observers whose hummingbird feeders are being dominated by Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers. The hummingbirds don’t have a chance against these larger birds.
Woodpeckers, orioles and bees will often take advantage of the sugar water we put out to attract hummingbirds. I have several suggestions to deter woodpeckers and orioles from a hummingbird feeder.
Use a hummingbird feeder with no perches. A hummingbird can hover in front of a flower or hummingbird feeder and drink its fill of nectar or sugar water. Other birds must be perched to lap up the sugar water.
Some hummingbird feeders come with bee guards, small inserts that surround the feeding ports. These bee guards will discourage woodpeckers as well but pose no obstacle to the thin bill and long tongue of a hummingbird.
Sometimes, woodpeckers and orioles will perch on the wire or string that supports the hummingbird feeder. You can easily make a baffle with an old CD or DVD. Drill a small hole in the center and thread the supporting wire or strong through the CD. Raise the CD to an appropriate height and then wrap some tape or string just below the CD to keep it in place.
One final suggestion is to put out multiple hummingbird feeders.
Around the first of July, lots of birders look for the annual Check-list Supplement from the American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds. This committee, the NACC, is responsible for maintaining the official checklist of the birds of North America and Middle America.
Life lists can change because of NACC decisions. Recently, many birders lost a life bird as Thayer’s Gull was lumped with Iceland Gull but gained a species when the Winter Wren was split into the eastern Winter Wren and western Pacific Wren.
The 2018 update doesn’t have any lumps or splits affecting the Maine avifauna. One common name change has relevance for Maine. The official common name of the Gray Jay is switched back to Canada Jay. This decision is unusual because the committee usually will not change a common name unless a split or lump is involved.
The decision to revert to Canada Jay appears to be influenced by a movement in Canada to designate the Canada Jay as the national bird of that country.
Many of the taxonomic changes in the current update are based on DNA comparisons that lend insight into how closely related different species are.
The Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker are now placed in the genus Dryobates, if you want to update your field guide.
Prior to the new checklist supplement, five North American sparrows were classified in the genus Ammodramus. Now, only the Grasshopper Sparrow remains in that genus. Nelson’s Sparrow, Salt Marsh Sparrow, LeConte’s Sparrow and Seaside Sparrow are now moved into the genus Ammospiza.
The Hydrobatidae, the family of the storm-petrels, is split into two families. The Hydrobatidae now includes species that nest in the northern hemisphere so our Leach’s Storm Petrel, a breeder in Maine, remains in the family. A new family the Oceanitidae, contains storm-petrels that nest in the southern hemisphere. This family contains Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, an abundant summer visitor to our pelagic waters.
The Supplement is available at: http://americanornithologypubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-18-62.1
A record of a singing Chuck-will’s-Widow in Blue Hill for the past three weeks is remarkable. Another was heard in Wells on July 1. Perhaps we will be able to add this species to the list of species that have expanded into Maine in the past 40 years. This list includes Turkey Vulture, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Blue-winged Warbler and House Finch.