Tulip Tree Aviary

The large tulip tree (yellow-poplar) in our backyard has been blooming for the past two weeks and its showy yellow and orange flowers (and the insects that zoom among them) attracted a large assembly of birds last evening. Northern and orchard orioles dominated the scene, joined by warbling vireos, a pair of great crested flycatchers, several ruby-throated hummingbirds, blue-gray gnatcatchers and a few warblers (Tennessee and Blackburnian). All of the noise and activity also enticed more common residents to the scene, including cardinals, house wrens and gray catbirds. Though absent last evening, cedar waxings often feast on the petals of these tulip tree flowers and will likely visit in the coming weeks.

While especially spectacular last evening, such bird congregations are not unusual. Drawn to favorite food sources (nectar, berries, insects), certain species descend on a site and, like those noisy gulls on the beach, soon attract the attention of other birds. These large, mixed feeding groups benefit from the discoveries of one another and offer a certain degree of protection from predators (more eyes provide a better warning system). Then again, they might just enjoy the company!