Acrobatic Bug Eaters
By mid-summer we are grateful for the busy bug eating birds. Not only do they keep the mosquito, gnat and flies under control, they are also wildly entertaining to watch!
While many birds such as robins and even hummingbirds do eat flying or crawling bugs, there are some acrobatic fliers who specialize in snatching insects from the air. One of our favorite visitors is a Wood Peewee we refer to as ‘Herman’ (as in ‘Peewee Herman’). He sits atop a plant hook or branch, watching in all directions and suddenly swoops on an unsuspecting moth or gnat, snapping his beak with relish.
The peewee seems to perform somersaults and other stunts in the air as he grabs his meals. Often bug wings will still be drifting down as the bird returns to his perch to watch for another snack. He sits there quietly and then sings ‘pee weee’ (upnote) ‘pee weee’ (down note). The simple song is often echoed by a peewee in another part of the woods.
Another acrobatic bug eater stays near the treetops. I think it is a pine warbler although there are so many little similar warblers I can’t be sure. The bird is very small and very fast and flits from twig to leaf finding insects near the trees. Since he is small, quick and greenish gold, he is difficult to spot as he collects meals amid the leafy trees.
A third resident bug eater, the Acadian Flycatcher is even more difficult to recognize although he ventures into the air more than the warblers. This tiny pale gray bird never stays in one place long enough to focus on him. He dives on an insect from a perch and then flits to another branch to catch another, always darting and sometimes even seems to fly backwards with amazing maneuverability. His bill snapping signals success as he grabs anything he sees.
One wonders how many bugs these birds eat in a day! They are always busy and they seem to enjoy swooping and flitting in the treetops and above the open areas to catch a meal, as we enjoy watching them!