SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Stock up on that grape jelly because the orioles will be returning.
Phil Pudenz, owner of Wild Bird Connection in Sioux Falls, and Dr. David Swanson, a biology professor at the University of South Dakota, said the Baltimore and Orchard orioles should be returning in the first part of May.
“They like dark-colored fruit, so people use grape jelly,” Pudenz said.
“Grape jelly is something they love,” Swanson said.
Use jelly not jam, Pudenz said. Jelly is made from strained fruit juice and does not contain fruit pieces.
Pudenz said orioles will be busy and visible for the first couple weeks of May until they nest. The jelly will be attractive until the nesting and babies because that’s when they start eating bugs.
Swanson said that orioles generally like taller or droopy trees like cottonwoods and evergreens.
“They like to build their nests on droopy branches,” he said.
Other birds have already appeared and more are on the way.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Pudenz said of the return of migrating and birds who make a seasonal home in the state.
“I’m going to start putting my hummingbird feeders out,” Swanson said.
The hummingbirds should be back in about two weeks.
Buntings, cedar waxwings and other birds will be traveling in the coming days.
“Right now, you are seeing a lot of robins,” Pudenz said.
Robins are attracted to water. “They love the water, they like to bathe in it,” Pudenz said.
“A water feature is what you really need,” Swanson said. Warblers like water, especially water with some dripping or movement, he said.
Feeding those birds
Birds are looking for high-calorie food now, Pudenz said.
He recommends using shelled or unshelled sunflowers or a mix of sunflowers and peanuts.
Woodpeckers are returning and they like suet.
“We’re seeing blackbirds and grackles, and some people aren’t happy about that,” Pudenz said of the often noisy birds that will congregate at and around feeders.
People can put safflower in their feeders to keep blackbirds and grackles away, Pudenz said. “It’s a real hard seed…,” he said. Blackbirds don’t like the seed. Squirrels don’t like it either.
If people are new to feeding birds, they should start with a feeder with a flat tray, Pudenz said. Birds like cardinals like a flat surface and not pegs. Flat surface feeders can be used along with finch feeders.
Swanson and Pudenz said it is important to keep feeders clean. Swanson said although avian flu still exists among wild birds, the carriers are mainly waterfowl. No extra cleaning should be needed because of avian flu, he said.
Birds can be fussy about cleanliness.
Finches like their feeders clean and dry.
“You need to make sure the it’s dry inside the feeder,” Pudenz said. Birds won’t eat if it’s wet or if there is bacteria.
“Niger seed does dry out over time so you need to make sure the seed is fresh,” Pudenz said.
Where to see the birds
A backyard may provide good views of birds.
But a landscape along the shore of a lake or river can reveal shoreline birds. Ducks are also gathering now in wetlands.
Grasslands like that on Spirit Mound State Historic Prairie near Vermillion attract sparrows and other birds.
State parks like Union Grove, Good Earth, Newton Hills and more are places to spot woodland birds, Swanson said.
River and lake areas and grasslands near them are also places to spot birds.
Although there is still some thick snow cover in northcentral and northeastern South Dakota, Swanson said the birds will arrive in that area of the state as well.
“I don’t think (snow cover) will impact the stuff that comes here around the first of May,” Swanson said.
Now, near Vermillion, sparrows are visible, most often in pairs. Ducks have also been gathering, Swanson said.
Pudenz said as people watch for birds and get out the feeders, don’t forget the birdhouses.
Wrens are coming back now, he said.
The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department has multiple links to bird-watching trails and sites.