Wild bird migration during the months of April and May will have a tremendous impact on the varieties of birds you will see in your yard. Perhaps you are already witnessing a changing of the guard in your yard and at your feeders.
How can you find out what birds are coming, going, or staying? Most field guides use either range maps or some kind of key to illustrate the seasonal occurrence of each species. For example, the Sibley’s Birds of the Arizona Central Highlands folding guide uses a series of color-coded boxes next to the illustration of each species—green for spring, red for summer, brown for autumn, and blue for winter.
Of course it is important to remember that these color-coded seasonal symbols are a guide, and birds don’t read field guides! Sometimes wild birds show up in unexpected locations, in the ‘wrong’ time of year. That is part of the fun of bird watching—finding an unusual bird out of its ‘expected’ range or out of season.
For example, several years ago I found a male black-throated blue warbler in Granite Basin, in December! This is a bird that normally winters in the West Indies! In this instance, the bird was both out of its normal range and out of season. Talk about a good find.
So who will be arriving? Here is a partial list of some of the bird species that will be showing up in the Arizona Central Highlands area over the next two months—turkey vulture, zone-tailed hawk, white-throated swift, black-chinned hummingbirds, violet green, cliff and barn swallows, ash-throated flycatcher, western and Cassin’s kingbirds, western, summer, and hepatic tanagers, Lucy’s and yellow warblers, black-headed and blue grosbeaks, lazuli buntings, Scotts, hooded and Bullock’s orioles and brown-headed cowbirds. Whew, that is a lot of arrivals!
Who will be leaving? Here is a partial list of the birds that will be either heading north or will at least be moving up into the higher elevations surrounding the Prescott area—sharp-shinned hawk, ruby-crowned kinglet, western bluebird, yellow-rumped warbler, chipping, Lincoln’s and white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco and pine siskin.
Who are our non-migratory, year-round residents? The list includes Cooper’s hawk, Gambel’s quail, mourning dove, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern flicker, common raven, white-breasted nuthatch, mountain chickadee, juniper and bridled titmouse, bushtit, Say’s phoebe, Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay, spotted and canyon towhee, red-winged blackbird and great-tailed grackle.
A fun activity for those who enjoy feeding birds in their yard is to use a notebook to record the date each new species arrives in both the spring and in the fall. As you do this year after year, you will be amazed by how closely they time their arrival each year.
In the same notebook you can also maintain a record of the last date you saw each species in your yard.
For example, dark-eyed juncos are leaving right now, and if the last time you saw one in your yard was on April 10th, you could record this date.
With so many varieties of birds coming and going, now is a good time to revisit what food sources you are currently offering and what food sources you might want to offer for spring arrivals. Some of the birds arriving are seed eaters.
Others drink sugar water. Some like fresh fruit, or grape jelly, and others eat meal worms.
As you adjust what food sources you offer in your yard—timing it with the arrival of migratory species—you will increase the variety of birds you can attract to your yard. And don’t forget to have water in your yard, as well, for the migratory birds!
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with two locations in northern Arizona – Prescott and Flagstaff. 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.