Franklin’s gull (Courier stock photo)

It is hard to believe we are already in September, as it still feels like summer!  However, the month of September will usher in a lot of changes here in the Arizona Central Highlands.  Many bird species will be either leaving, arriving, or just passing through this area during the month of September.   

Departures include all of our summer neo-tropical birds, such as kingbirds, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, warblers and vireos.  Hummingbird numbers will drop significantly from the beginning of September to the end of September.  Many of our large-winged summer residents will also be leaving, such as turkey vultures, Swainson’s hawks, black hawks and zone-tailed hawks.

Arrivals include a variety of seed-eating and suet-eating birds, such as white-crowned sparrows, chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. Some years we witness an irruptive event, where species move beyond their ‘normal’ winter range. This behavior is hard to predict, but, if this occurs, we could possibly see Cassin’s finches, evening grosbeaks, red crossbills and red-breasted nuthatches this winter.  However, there is no guarantee.   

Many of the arrivals to the Arizona Central Highlands area will be water birds.  They won’t show up in your yard, but if you go out to either Willow Lake or Watson Lake, these arrivals will number in the thousands.  This includes a variety of duck species that winter over, such as northern shovelers, pintail, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, American wigeons, ring-necked ducks, green winged teal and hundreds of Canada geese. 

There are certainly arrivals you can expect to see in your yard, such as yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets.  Providing a suet feeder is a great way to attract these birds to your yard this winter. 

Birds passing through our area (transients) are varieties that don’t winter or summer in the Prescott area, but pass through the area on their way north in the spring and on their way south in the fall.  Many of these species take advantage of our lakes as a stopover point, where they can rest and refuel. 

Examples of transient species taking advantage of the lakes include American Pelicans, several species of gulls, terns and shorebirds such as avocets, stilts, ibis, dowitchers, and sandpipers. 

Migration is an exciting time of year for serious birders (like myself) who enjoy going out into the field in search of birds, as each day brings the possibility of different birds showing up.  One never knows from day to day what might be seen during migration.

Changes in the variety and number of birds occurring in your yard will be subtle during migration, but you will start to see ‘new’ birds by the end of the month.   

You might be wondering whether you need to make any changes to your bird-feeding area as we move from summer into fall and then into winter.  At this point in the season, I don’t think it is necessary to make any changes unless you don’t yet have out a suet feeder.  If you live in an area with a lot of native trees and shrubs, I would definitely recommend trying suet in your yard.  

The month of September is the submission period for the Jay’s Bird Barn Annual Wild Bird Photography Contest.  The submission period ends on Sept. 30th. The event is free and open to the public. If you have some awesome photographs of wild birds, we would love to have you participate.

The exhibit opens to the public for voting on Tuesday, Oct. 1st, as part of our Annual Fall Seed Sale and Anniversary Celebration. 

Until next week, happy birding!