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May 17, 2018 - Late Spring Migration

Many bird species migrate each year during springtime and again in the autumn months. During fall, as food sources diminish in their nesting grounds they travel great distances to spend the colder seasons as far south as Argentina. As days lengthen, the air warms and insects and vegetation become abundant once again in northern regions. Migrant species return to their breeding grounds, many of them traveling high into the arctic.

During May, in the final phases of springtime migration, most birds have molted into their breeding plumage. Adult males are sporting their colorful nuptial feathers and singing their beautiful songs. During this last push, birds including Orioles, Grosbeaks, Hummingbirds and the celebrated Warblers are passing through or returning home for the summer.

1. Spring Warblers

In many parts of the US, warblers are challenging to photograph. Often heard long before they are seen, their melodic serenades emanate from high in the trees as they flit about, rarely perching longer than a second. During migration, however, they travel through in great numbers and are much easier to spot. There are a few magical locations throughout the US known as the "flyways" which boast very high concentrations of migrant passerines. The southern shore of Lake Erie arguably tops that list during May. Thousands of birders and bird photographers travel from all over the world to attend the Biggest Week in American Birding festival that occurs for 10 days each May. The boardwalk at Magee Marsh is one of the top locations in that region, and where Renee DePrato captured the two warbler images below of a Chestnut-sided Warbler (left) and American Redstart (right).

2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

It is always exciting to see that flash of brilliant red out in the yard as the adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak stops in during its migration back to forest nesting grounds. This is one of many species that demonstrates sexual dimorphism, a condition where the male and female exhibit unique outward appearance. This is very obvious with Rose-breasted Grosbeak as well as the Baltimore Orioles below. In these images of a male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Kelly Frederick Sweet photographed the male on the left and Chari Campbell captured the female on the right.

3. Baltimore Orioles

While I was at my desk wrapping up the May 3rd blog a flash of brilliant orange caught my eye. I looked outside to see a Baltimore Oriole perched on the lower eave. Without hesitation, I ran downstairs, attached orange slices to my nectar feeders and hung them outside. For the next two days, three stunning males fought over the citrus treats. Then, as quickly as they had arrived they disappeared, having moved on to the next stop in their journey to their nesting grounds. Although they like open woodlands, my neighborhood does not offer the tall deciduous tree habitat bordering a forest edge that they prefer.

Beth Stewart photographed this female on the left and Diana Meyn captured the male on the right.

4. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

During mid- to late-May, Ruby-throated hummingbirds return to the eastern half of North America to nest. Another example of dimorphism, the female of this species has a white throat and none of the ruby red. Chari Campbell photographed this male at her feeder. If hummingbirds are in your area, you can easily attract them to your yard by hanging a red-trimmed feeder and keeping it clean and filled with fresh nectar.

Making hummingbird nectar is quick and simple but must be done every 3-4 days. Not only can it spoil after several days in hot sun, it is also a potential draw for ants and bees.

Fill it with a solution that is three parts water and one part sugar (e.g. 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar) following these directions:

1. In a pan, bring the water to a boil.

2. Turn off the heat and blend in the sugar, mixing until the solution becomes clear.

3. Allow it to cool until it is lukewarm or room temperature.

4. Empty the old nectar, wash the feeder and fill it with the fresh solution.

5. Hang it outside and watch and enjoy as hummingbirds fight over your nummy, fresh nectar.

Note that you should NEVER add dye to the nectar.

5. Orchard Oriole

Rounding off our Spring Migration blog is this beautiful Orchard Oriole photographed by Kelly Frederick Sweet. Kelly photographed this male in her yard. Although considered common breeders in the eastern US states, they are far more rare to encounter than their flashier Baltimore cousins.

6. Slideshow Recap

View the slideshow to see a larger sized image of each of the photos featured in this week's blog:

7. Summary of Resource Links within this Article

Birds Featured in order of appearance:

8. Blog News

Waterman Center now has an Instagram page! Please follow us and tag your images #WatermanCenter to be featured.


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