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Spring Bird Migration

Posted March 24, 2010 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Spring has sprung here in the northeastern U.S.! Birds are chirping and swooping, flowers are pushing up through the mulch, and the first few pesky insects are out and about. As I sat in the yard planting some seeds for later transplanting, I wondered which birds show up first. Which voices was I hearing on that first 70-degree day of spring?

Migration Map

According to eNature.com, 10 species of birds arrive in the northeastern U.S. before April 15. These include the purple martin, ruby-throated hummingbird, barn swallow, and black-and-white warbler. I have also heard the red-winged blackbirds!

The ruby-throated hummingbird winters in Central America. In March, they begin a flight across the Gulf of Mexico and continue northward across the U.S. By April they reach the middle of the country; by May they reach the northern U.S. and southern Canada. As with other species, the timing of the move depends on the weather and availability of food sources.

Why Do Birds Migrate?

Did you ever wonder what makes some species fly south while other stay for the winter? Why do the chickadees hang around to visit your feeders when the barn swallows flee?

Food scarcity seems to play a big role, but just because you feed the birds doesn't mean they'll stick around. Birds need to have a reliable day-to-day food source. This ties in with the theory that birds that eat insects, fruit, and nectar will leave places where these foods become scarce during the winter or other seasons -- hence birds that fly south for the winter and north in the summer.

Frequent Fliers

Birds also return north in the summer for breeding. Many species prefer to return to a familiar nesting spot – often the same exact place, year after year.

Some facts about flights:

  • Arctic terns migrate from Antarctica to Massachusetts. They travel 1,000 miles per week for a total trip of up to 22,000 miles!
  • Hawks that travel from Central America often travel in groups of as many as 100,000.
  • Most songbirds fly at speeds of about 20-30 mph; waterfowl fly at 30-50 mph.
  • The average altitude for migrating birds is less than 2,000 feet, although some will fly as high as 6,500 feet.

More about birds on CR4:

How the Bird Gets the Worm (Robins)

Smack! Why Do Birds Fly Into Glass?

Think it's a Bat? It Might be a Bird! (Swallows)

The Cackling Grackle Migration

Resources:

http://www.enature.com/birding/migration_home.asp

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070302082310.htm

http://wild-birds.suite101.com/article.cfm/why_do_birds_migrate

http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/explain/docs/birds.asp

http://www.zoosociety.org/Conservation/BWB-ASF/Library/BirdMigrationFacts.php

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#1

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/24/2010 10:20 AM

I can't wait for the hummingbirds to return. Last year I was sitting outside, working on my laptop on one of the first glorious days of spring, when I heard a familiar...humming. The ruby-throat had returned, and to the exact spot where the feeder had been hanging the previous summer. I jumped up and couldn't assemble the feeder and new food fast enough.

Right now I'm just enjoying the wrens, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and drab-looking goldfinches putting on a show for me.

Thanks for being a harbinger of spring yourself, SavvyExacta!

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Guru
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/24/2010 11:48 AM

Great hummingbird story sue. Spring became a reality for me last week when I saw these in my yard:

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/24/2010 12:12 PM

Croci! Crocuses?

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/24/2010 4:01 PM

According to both wikipedia and dictionary.com both are acceptable.

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#5

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/25/2010 7:04 AM

Living here by the Chesapeake Bay a wintering place for the Canadian Geese have been seeing them disembark in groups for the last couple weeks. One of the first signs of spring here. Have also notice the hawks in their migration. As far as the smaller migratory birds it's hard to tell. The bird feeders here at work have been constantly busy all winter long with the snow that we got. I have notice though the birds have brighten up the gloom of the pasting winter with their vivid colors of the spring mating season.

Mite be easier to tell if i could keep the company cat out of the trees the feeders are in.

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#6

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/25/2010 8:40 AM

Birds are wondrous creatures and I especially look forward to Spring and the return of many species.

So why is a crazy robin sitting on the windowsill of my living room picture window and pecking his head off on the glass? He's done this for half a day each of the last 3 days.

This is my first spring in this house so I'm learning all kinds of new stuff. Like the woodpecker that just loves his early morning banging on the aluminum gutters for some odd reason.

Hooker

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/25/2010 10:17 AM

I wrote a blog entry awhile ago about birds and glass that might explain the robin's behavior.

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In reply to #7

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/25/2010 10:46 AM

Thanks, I do remember your blog from last year.

This particular robin doesn't "seem" to be in protection mode but I could be wrong. He just seems to like sitting there calmly pecking on the glass. Part of the time he's sitting on the back of a nearby chair on the front porch perusing his domain (the front yard).

We've tried everything you advise, short of putting a covering/screen on this big window. I'm sure it's just a temporary thing and he's not hurting himself, so we'll probably just wait it out.

Hooker

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/25/2010 10:51 AM

This behavior sounds like something a female cardinal did at my window at work much of last spring and early summer. While the male perched in a nearby tree, the female would perch on the ledge that divided the upper and lower halves of my window. She would slide back and forth on the ledge, tapping on the glass as she moved across. I'm not sure why. Maybe something inside looked like nesting material? Maybe she saw the bird and was calmly telling it to "get lost"? I didn't happen to look up this particular behavior but I too would be interested to learn more about it!

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#10

Re: Spring Bird Migration

03/26/2010 4:18 PM

I have had large flocks of grackles already which mean the redwinged black birds are soon to arrive. The cardinals which winter al year are finally singing in the morning and afternoon. I have seen many hawks either soaring or sitting on the highway lamps. Just a whole lot of activity. I love it.

Even the skniks are coming out.

I havenot gone out too much at night but I understand the owls should also be quite active now.

Enjoy

Bob

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