Wings of Love
February is for the Birds!

     It’s February. Most of us are huddled in our homes sick with cabin fever, longing for the far off warmth of spring. February feels like the longest month of winter even though it has the fewest days. We thumb through garden catalogues, plan that first big fishing trip, and dream of summer picnics. While we fantasize about the months to come, others are getting a jump on spring.
     Love is in the air! It’s hard to believe, but Great Horned Owls are sitting on eggs that will hatch in mid March! Over the past two months Great Horned Owls have been hooting up a storm to attract mates and defend territories. Another common owl of our area, the Barred Owl, is just as amorous this time of year. Courtship involves lots of head bobbing, wing waving, and duet hooting sessions. Attentive males frequently bring their intended mates small presents. A warning to the male readers out there... don’t try this at home - it takes a special kind of woman to appreciate the gift of a dead mouse! Barred Owls prefer woodland and river bottom habitat . Natural tree hollows are their favorite nesting sites. They have also been known to use man made nest boxes. Hosting a pair of Barred Owls requires a bit more planning than hanging a wren house, but the rewards are well worth it!
     February may seem like a dismal month for nuptial events but many of our year round residents would disagree. If you stop to listen you will hear new songs emerging as the days grow longer. Chickadees are singing their familiar “fee beee” song. Pairs will soon break away from the loose flocks they formed in early winter. Chickadees choose a partner and stick together for life. Frequent singing helps define the boundaries of their chosen nesting area. Chickadees nest in tree cavities made by woodpeckers and also accept nest boxes attached to poles or trees.
     Another cavity nester, the Nuthatch is also becoming quite frisky. Normally solitary throughout the winter, they are taking more interest in each other. Nuthatches dart about the trees, chasing each other while climbing. Sometimes they fly tight loops around the trunks, perhaps showing off their speed and agility. Nuthatches sometimes choose to raise a family in a Chickadee house. Known as the clowns of the bird world, the young are especially entertaining to watch! Nuthatches are not the most musical of songbirds, but their nasal “hey, hey, hey, hey” reminds us that warmer days are not far off.
     Cardinals begin the day singing “what-cheer, what-cheer” The bright red male always stays close to his mate. At backyard feeders he will often feed the hen as she sits in a nearby tree. Carefully selecting seeds to bring to her, he offers them with a graceful bow. This activity strengthens the pair bound, assuring the hen she has made a good choice of fathers. If he does a good job of feeding her now, she knows he will be a good provider for their nestlings come spring.
     February may be the least appreciated month of the year. It lacks the thrill of May, the intensity of July, and the boldness of November. But if you take the time to stand quietly and listen, you will find that February has the power to lift the spirit from the slumber of winter. It is the first flicker of hope after months darkness and cold. Take note of the small changes that are afoot each day. A promise of renewal felt in the angle of the sun, the growing light and the songs of birds.

Kelly Larson
Northern Flights Wild Bird Store
Bemidji, Minnesota 218-444-3022