If you were to ask me, “When is the best time of year to go bird watching?” my answer would be the first two weeks of May. Why? There are several factors contributing to May being such a great time to get out and go birding. Here are a few:
First, spring migration is in full swing. Bird species that spent the winter in the tropics are moving north every day, heading back to their summer, breeding range. There are more birds in the area during migration, making it a lot easier to find birds.
Second, this is the time when most bird species are singing — a lot! How is this helpful? It is easier to find birds, and ultimately to see them, when they are singing. Relying on your sense of hearing to find birds is a lot easier than relying on your ability to detect movement up in a tree.
Third, bird identification is easier during spring migration, as most bird species are finishing their molt — where they’ve lost their old, worn, winter feathers, and have new, fresh, bright beautiful feathers, in breeding plumage, making them easier to identify.
Each year, the second Saturday in May is designated as World Migratory Bird Day. This year’s celebration has a specific goal: to educate the public on the dangers of light pollution, and the impact this global issue has on migratory birds. Light pollution attracts and disorients nocturnally migrating birds. In the United States alone, at least 100 million birds die every year from colliding with buildings. The goal this year is to spread the message: “dim the lights for birds at night.”
Locally, our Prescott Audubon Society chapter has planned a World Migratory Bird Day Celebration on Saturday, May 14 from 4 to 7 p.m. The event takes place at the Highlands Center for Natural History at 1375 Walker Road, south of State Highway 69. Pre-registration is encouraged. Tickets are $10 for those who pre-register, and $15 at the door.
This Saturday, May 7, our local Prescott Audubon Society chapter is hosting a free bird walk at Watson Woods, starting at 8 a.m. Watson Woods is one of the best local places to observe migratory birds in spring. The bird walk is open to the public — you don’t have to belong to the Audubon Society to participate. Several experienced birders will take groups of birders on a slow-paced bird walk, to hear, see and identify the many varieties of birds that bless our area. No registration is necessary.
Looking ahead to the summer months — the last week of July is the Hummingbird Festival in Sedona. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by going to the International Hummingbird Society website. The festival runs from July 29 through 31, and includes live presentations, hummingbird banding tours, garden tours, birding trips, a hummingbird marketplace and a gala banquet.
Also, the summer session of the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival will take place in Sierra Vista from Aug. 3 to 7. Registration is now open on their website at www.swwings.org. As you might expect, Jay’s Bird Barn will be participating as a vendor at both festivals!
On a different note, I had a beautiful male northern cardinal in my yard earlier this week and I still have a few white-crowned sparrows hanging out in my yard.
Birding tip of the week: Be on the lookout for migratory songbirds at your feeders. Be prepared for unexpected visitors that veer off course during migration and show up in random places. If you see a rare bird, please call the store, and report it.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.