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 August 2013 issue.
It is generally true that migratory birds fly north in the spring and south in the fall, but in many species, movements are more complex. Following the nesting season, Great Egret engages in something called post-breeding dispersal: Birds, especially young egrets, wander far from colonies in the southern and central states, regularly heading north to southern Canada. Peak movements usually occur in August. Watch for egrets feeding in wetlands or flying overhead. Most migrants are seen in the evening or early morning, and sometimes, they’re heard traveling at night.
Most birds burst onto the breeding grounds screaming for attention. Yellow Warbler is a superb example. Males arrive gleaming bright yellow marked with reddish racing stripes below. They sing loudly and persistently, Sweet, sweet, I am so sweet! As the summer moves on, they become quiet, molt, appear more like females, and become difficult to find. In July and August, check migrant traps; even isolated patches in the middle of cities may hold a Yellow Warbler for a day or two. By the end of August, most will have slipped away from the breeding grounds.
This is one cool shorebird. As with all phalaropes, Wilson’s has reversed sex roles: Females are the brightly colored ones. They compete for males, and sometimes they have multiple partners. Then, after laying eggs, they depart, leaving the males to provide parental care. Peak movements are in July and early August. Most birds move to alkaline and saline lakes in the interior west, where they gather in large numbers before departing for South America. And in late summer, a few individuals always show up out of range. Here’s a little secret: Water-treatment facilities are favored sites.
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.
Read Chris, Brian, and Marshall’s tips for finding Canada Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Black Tern.