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Early Spring Migrants

Posted by Rutabaga Staff on 4/30/2013 to Nature & Photography

As the days begin to warm the earth, trees, rivers, lakes and streams, numerous species of neo-tropical avian migrants return. Yes, birds. Birds of all sizes and colors are returning to nest and feast upon our northern wildlife including the ever-present mosquito.

One of the early migrants that can be observed includes the most common bird in the state of Wisconsin – no, not the Robin but the Red-Winged Blackbird . They travel back to our northern state in flocks typically of 100 to 500 individuals. Making their homes in any place that is dry, wet, or marshy but generally with tall grasses. It’s impressive to see their flocks congregate in the tops of trees or along power lines.

The Tree Swallow is another early migrant. They are the most common swallow in Wisconsin. Their iridescent emerald colored backs and white stomachs can be seen skimming just above the surface of nearly every body of water in our state. Eating lots of insects is their forte. If you have a body of water or a large open grassy area you may be able to get them to use a nesting box.

Eastern Bluebirds are one of the most colorful birds that return to Wisconsin in April. They are similar to the tree swallow in their habitat and food preferences. In fact, I currently have a pair of each species arguing over the two birdhouses I set up in hopes of attracting them.

One last early spring migrant that I’d like to mention happens to be the most common eastern wood warbler that permeates our state, the Yellow-rumped Warbler. They are one of over 30 spectacular gem-like species of warbler that visit our area. These neo-tropical migrants fly from warm sunny climates like Belize, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. Like nearly all the wood warblers they are hyperactive birds that feast on insects attracted to the sticky buds that are just now beginning to open on deciduous trees in our region. Butter-butts, as the Yellow-rumps are affectionately called, rapidly flitter about from one branch to another and are the most difficult family of birds to keep in constant binocular view.

Birding Forecast: Over the next 2 weeks be on the look out for Ruby-throated hummingbirds, house wrens, many more warbler species, purple martins, white pelicans, great egrets, and many, many other fantastic migrants.

The Madison Audubon Society has numerous field trips set up to enjoy these birds. Please check out for upcoming field trips. For Part 2 on Spring Migration.

Rutabaga offers a variety of field guides.

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