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What to Expect This Year on April Bird Outings

By Peter Alden

Spring migration brings thousands of birds into New England during the months of April and May. Each of these birds brings their own migration experience flying from their winter homes in the Caribbean or Latin America to their North American summer home.

It is a remarkable journey as these tiny birds risk their lives covering thousands of miles across mountains and oceans, stopping briefly for rest and sustenance. They are seeking a place to find a mate, to make a nest, and to have babies.

As you welcome back your favorite migrant, ponder what he or she has done in the last year. Traveling to a dozen states and foreign countries, dodging tall buildings and windmills, eating new foods, avoiding novel predators, flying over oceans, seas and gulfs with no place to rest and no GPS aids. Good job, you birds!

Broad-winged Hawk

April is a month of hope as the air is full of bird songs from our resident and overwintering birds. A few flowers start popping up and our woody shrubs and trees start to bud out. There are some early returning migrants from birds that overwinter in the southern states. Most of these migrate by day.

As we do get frosts and even snow during April, most insect life remains dormant. Leaves do not appear on most of our woody plants until May. The huge variety of tasty protein-rich caterpillars that will munch on those leaves and provide food for our insectivorous birds will also wait until May and June to appear.

There are fish and some frogs and snakes about freshwater wetlands in April. Ducks anxious

Green-winged Team

to wing towards nesting grounds in boreal forest and tundra are still here in April but are rarer in May. Much of the invertebrate life on our coastal shores is scarce due to the slow rise in saltwater temperatures. As such most of our shorebirds pass through later in the Spring.

One nice feature of birding in mid-Spring is the lack of flying biting insects, but do wear anti-tick boots and clothing if in weedy areas away from cleared trails.

Bird Songs and Calls

It is a good time to learn as many bird calls and songs before the deluge of species coming in April. Here are three of my favorites that are most often found in the inland wooodlands in April

Northern Flicker

  • Song: Loud flick-er notes.

Hermit Thrush

  • Song: Differing pitches of flute-like notes.

Chipping Sparrow

  • Song: Dry chip chip chip chip chip chip chip chip.

Would you like to learn more about Spring Migration? Take the Spark Birding course and learn about 110 of the most known spring migrants:

Spring Migration in New England: Bird Identification Challenge

Immerse yourself in the quest to learn and identify the birds that return to New England each spring. Sharpen your bird ID skills by learning about 105 bird species arriving in early spring through late May. See how many you can check off your list. LEARN MORE


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