The warm spring weather in April brings on many exciting changes in nature: snow changes to rain, flowers emerge and many animals become active. It’s an especially busy time of year for birds. Many species are returning from their wintering grounds and getting ready for the breeding season.
If you’re already a birder or want to start, we encourage you to participate in Go Birding Day on April 25. Become a backyard birder!
Look for long-distance migrants like this colourful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in mid-May!
Here are a few tips to get started:
1) Be prepared
The most important tools in a birder’s toolbox are a pair of binoculars and a field guide. Binoculars help you see birds up close from far away. They make it easier to observe their interesting behaviours and learn how to identify them.
Field guides provide lists, photos, and tips on how to identify bird species. They’re useful for distinguishing between tricky species that look similar (e.g. Song Sparrow vs. female House Finch). You can also use CVC’s migratory bird checklist to get to know birds stopping in the Credit River Watershed.
For a fun activity with your kids, make nature binoculars to view birds and signs of spring.
Yellow Warblers are one of the earliest warblers to arrive in early-May. Listen for their pleasing song that sounds like “sweet sweet I’m so sweet!”
2) Timing is important
Although birds are active at all times of the day, early morning is the best time to observe them. Migratory birds are tired from their long overnight flights. They use this time to forage and fuel up before continuing their journeys.
Breeding birds sing most often during the period just before and after sunrise, a phenomenon known as the dawn chorus. Listen for a beautiful mixture of different species singing together to attract mates and defend their territories. Getting up early can be difficult, the rewards will be well worth it!
Backyard birding is a great activity for kids too!
3) Bird often and take notes
Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or a in a rural area, there are always interesting local birds to see. Check your yard often. Pay special attention to birds feeding high in trees or down low in shrubs and brush, especially during the peak migration period in mid-May.
Keep a notebook and pen near your favorite viewing area. Make species lists, take note of interesting behaviours and sketch birds that you see. Submit your sightings to the website eBird to organize your lists and contribute valuable data to one of the largest citizen science projects in the world!
Woodpeckers are common at backyard feeders, including this beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker. This impressive shot was taken by the young backyard birder above!
We encourage everyone to celebrate #GoBirdingDay on April 25 by respecting social distancing and being a responsible backyard birder. Share your observations with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Happy birding everyone!
By CVC’s Zach Kahn, Technician, Watershed Monitoring