Archive for Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Birds by the thousands fill trees

‘It’s a phenomenon. It’s an extraordinary event’

Thousands of robins and cedar waxwing birds roost Tuesday south of Langston Hughes School, near the western end of Bob Billings Parkway. The influx of birds has attracted the attention of KU ornithologists, who are studying the phenomenon.

Thousands of robins and cedar waxwing birds roost Tuesday south of Langston Hughes School, near the western end of Bob Billings Parkway. The influx of birds has attracted the attention of KU ornithologists, who are studying the phenomenon.

February 11, 2009

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Birds by the thousands fill trees

Every night for the past few weeks, thousands of birds have been flocking to western Lawrence. Enlarge video

The unseasonal influx of robins has attracted the attention of KU ornithologists.

The unseasonal influx of robins has attracted the attention of KU ornithologists.

Birds — mostly robins by the thousands — are making a daily evening trek to extreme western Lawrence where they roost in cedar trees for the night.

It is a thrilling spectacle for neighbors in the area of George Williams Way, Diamondhead Drive and other nearby streets.

“I love it. I love robins. I think it’s great,” said Don Bushell, one of those residents.

That many birds can announce their presence if windows happen to be open, as Celia Heintz found out.

“It was 70 (degrees) out last week. I had the windows open and there was chirping beyond belief,” she said.

The birds come in during their own version of rush hour, starting about 4:30 p.m. and show up in increasing numbers for about an hour, Bushell and Heintz said. They are going to the trees in a still untouched greenbelt in the area.

The flock also attracted the attention of Kansas University experts.

“We’ve been out there several times to try to get a handle on what’s going on,” said Mark Robbins, ornithologist at KU’s Natural History Museum. “We feel there are probably well over 100,000 robins coming in there, mainly around 5 p.m.”

In addition to the robins, there are about 1,000 cedar waxwing birds flying in, Robbins said. A few bluebirds also have been seen.

“It’s a phenomenon. It’s an extraordinary event,” Robbins said. “It’s an amazing stream of birds.”

The best place to see the birds come in is at the western end of Bob Billings Parkway, Robbins said.

The birds are attracted to the cedar trees as a roosting and food source. They eat the cedar berries, Robbins said. He and neighbors say the roosting has been going on for at least three weeks and maybe all winter.

Even considering the interest in the cedar trees, it is unusual to see such a large number of birds congregate in one place, Robbins said. The birds start flying off at the first signs of dawn, he said.

Heintz and Bushell have lived in the area for only a couple of years but they said they had not seen the bird flocks before this year.

Many of the birds are getting killed in collisions with vehicles on West Sixth Street as it turns into U.S. Highway 40, Robbins said.

“They are getting hit by cars by the dozens. It is really taking a toll on the robin population,” he said.

The birds don’t represent a threat to humans, however, Robbins said. And the birds will probably be gone when spring arrives, he said.

Comments

Bobo Fleming 6 years, 4 months ago

Alfred Hitchcock presents " Revenge of the Birds" wherein millions of the fuzzy criters have been taken in by Obamas promise to control cats.

Debbie Pepple 6 years, 4 months ago

I live just northeast of 15th and Kasold - the birds are in my yard both morning and evening scouring the flower beds! In addition to the hundreds of robins that descend on my yard, a variety of woodpeckers are along for the ride too! I kept telling friends that the robins have taken over my yard but they thought I was crazy.

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 4 months ago

why are they making this sound like something new? happens all the time here on the east side kinda cool to watch as long as you don,t have a " the birds" flash back.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 4 months ago

"They are getting hit by cars by the dozens. It is really taking a toll on the robin population"No... it seems there are thousands in the area. Now, the squirrels... they have reason to complain about their numbers, I think.

superduper 6 years, 4 months ago

I live out west and sunset it is really cool! You see the reflection of light on their wings. It looks like they're flashing and flickering. I'll try and get a picture. They're beautiful and poopie too :)

Chris Ogle 6 years, 4 months ago

Robins are cool, but those pecker-woods looking in my window are getting old.

Todd Hiatt 6 years, 4 months ago

They are also roosting out at Mutt Run.

Kristine Bailey 6 years, 4 months ago

South of Clinton Damn they have been in my yard for weeks.The usual early spring eating frenzy.Once the start paring up, they begin flying into my windows. My guess is they are trying to shoe off male competitors when they see their own reflection. If they actually nest in my yard, they continue fluttering, pecking attacks all day long! I have taken to putting big eyed dolls and stuffed animals on the window sills to scare them off and prevent the muddy beak streaks. No lie!

tyson travis 6 years, 4 months ago

Down here in S. Central Arkansas, we usually have tons of Robins by Feb. 1, they're a better sign of spring than the groundhog, but haven't seen a one so far this year. Maybe they know something and aren't telling, like is another ice storm on the way? They come up from the south, don't know why they got to Lawrence first, maybe the migratory flock took a detour around that ice in southern Mo. and N. Ark. Ornithologists, please comment!

ChristyLittle 6 years, 4 months ago

Hi, everyone. Jennifer Smith's Garden Calendar column, which runs in Thursday's Pulse section, will be about the The Great Backyard Bird Count, a national bird-counting census that takes place this weekend. There are more details about the event at www.birdcount.org, and Jennifer will share some of her own tips in Thursday's column. Looks like this might be an interesting year to participate.Christy Littleassistant features/special sections editor

bangaranggerg 6 years, 4 months ago

Robbins the ornithologist. Heh, heh. I'd think of something clever to say but I'm late for my dentist appointment with Dr. Premolars.

woodenfleaeater 6 years, 4 months ago

I bet the car wash owners set them free on the town, just like the tire shop owners slashing the tires.More birds = More car washes

make_a_difference 6 years, 4 months ago

We began seeing huge, huge flocks of mostly robins in our back yard early January. They show up most days around 2pm...fill the trees & the ground...hang out for about 20 minutes and then fly off all together. I've always thought of seeing the first robins as a sign that spring is just around the corner. So we're telling ourselves that this means we're getting a really early, long & beautiful spring! (Can't hurt to wish!)

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