In every issue of BirdWatching, eBird project leaders Chris Wood, Brian Sullivan, and Marshall Iliff describe three birds that are migrating. Here are the species they wrote about in our June 2013 issue.
It’s always a treat to see dazzling Canada Warbler. The bird flies from wintering areas in South America mostly along the east slope of the Andes to breed in woodlands in the Appalachian Mountains, New England, and across Canada to the Peace River valley of British Columbia. Migrants arrive in South Texas in the last two weeks of April and move into eastern states and provinces throughout May. Look for Canadas at midlevel or in the understory. They can be somewhat skulking, so it pays to listen for their song, a rapid jumble of notes that usually begins with a low chup.
Small and chunky Grasshopper Sparrow is more likely to be heard than seen during migration because it prefers to stay hidden in grasses. It’s widespread, however, and can show up in grassy fields and meadows nearly anywhere from the Atlantic coast to the Great Plains and from southern California to southern British Columbia. It is most common in the Great Plains and generally local in the east. Migration occurs primarily from mid-April to mid-May but can last into June. Your best strategy is to check open grasslands and prairies and listen for the high-pitched insectlike song.
This stunning small tern spends much of the year at sea and returns to breed in freshwater marshes across North America. In late April, sightings are most common on the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida, in California, and near the Great Lakes. By mid-May, the birds spread rapidly across the continent as far north as central Alberta, and they continue moving into June. One of the best strategies to find Black Terns during migration is to visit lakes, water-treatment plants, and wetlands during thunderstorms, when the birds take refuge. After a storm passes, they typically resume migrating.
eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. Marshall Iliff, Brian Sullivan, and Chris Wood are eBird project leaders. Submit your bird sightings at ebird.org.