Tag Archives: warblers

Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson

Take 5: Sing for Spring!

Spring is finally here! The days are getting longer and warmer, the trees are leafing out and budding left and right, and spring bird migration is picking up steam. Doesn’t it just make you want to sing?

Here are five birds that agree with that sentiment and are singing their hearts out for spring. You might consider joining them during a spring bird-watching program at one of our sanctuaries. Happy spring!

Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Prothonotary Warbler © Terri Nickerson
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Song Sparrow © Richard Alvarnaz
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Black and White Warbler © Brad Dinerman
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Indigo Bunting © Phil Doyle
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
Red-winged Blackbird © David Peller
Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Take 5: Wild for Warblers!

May is peak warbler migration season in Massachusetts, heralding the return of these small, often brightly colored songbirds. Each spring, thousands of warblers fly north from their southern winter homes to breed and raise their young.

Because warblers are quick and often elusive, they can be tricky to see in the field. Listen for the dawn chorus and watch treetops and shrubbery at sunrise and sunset for a flash of bright color and sweet song. The best way to learn to identify warblers is to go on bird walks with more experienced birders. Mass Audubon sanctuaries offer hundreds of bird-watching programs each year, so there’s sure to be one nearby that suits you.

Below are five photos of beautiful, bright warblers from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. The 2018 contest opens soon, so keep those sharp birder’s eyes out for the announcement!

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Chestnut-sided Warbler © Gregory S. Dysart

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Yellow Warbler © Larry Warfield

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Magnolia Warbler © Jim Sonia

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Blackburnian Warbler © Brian Lipson

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell

Prairie Warbler © Cameron Darnell

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Spring Migration is Finally Here

On the evening of Tuesday, May 1, a wave of migratory birds arrived in Massachusetts. While some early-migrating species have been trickling in since April, Wednesday, May 2, marks the beginning of the season for our most colorful migrants. Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow Warblers, melodious Wood Thrushes, and a host of other species have finally arrived after waiting out winter in the tropics. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are one of dozens of showy migratory species. Photo © Will Freedberg

Understanding Migration

Most migratory songbirds fly north under the cover of darkness, out of sight of daytime predators like falcons and hawks. Sometimes, it’s possible to hear them in quiet, open spaces: a faint “chip” noise is the telltale sign of a warbler flying overhead. Most nights, you might just hear one ever few minutes, but on nights with heavy migration, it’s possible to hear a flight call every second.

These birds prefer to migrate on nights with southwest winds, which speed them on their journey north. In fact, Tuesday’s southwest winds combined with recent bird reports from New York were the key tip-offs that migrants would arrive today.

These birds journey north over several nights, with most stopping to feed along the way and flying with a southwest wind at their backs. In fact, after staying put during last week’s steady northerly winds, this first push of birds flew into Massachusetts as soon as the winds shifted southwest.

Read the Radar

The scale of bird migration is astounding. So huge, in fact, that you can watch it unfold across entire regions on radar. Doppler radar, normally used to detect weather patterns like thunderstorms, regularly picks up “clouds” of migrating birds, allowing scientists to study migration patterns on a continental scale. To learn how to predict bird migration with radar, check out our introduction to the topic and specific instructions on how to read radar signals.

Canada Warbler. Photo © Will Freedberg

Tips For Watching Warblers

One of the joys of spring migration is that surprising birds can show up just about anywhere. While migratory species rely on undisturbed forests and shrublands to breed, many also pass through urban and suburban parks on their way north. Any grove of trees, whether in the Boston Public Garden or a suburban backyard, is a great place to check for warblers, orioles, grosbeaks, and other goodies.

Look for these colorful visitors in the highest parts of trees, but also around dense cover like thickets. But the real key is waking up early. Most migrants are active just after dawn, and turn quiet by mid-morning.

Good luck! If you see anything good out there, let us know on our Facebook page.