This year continues to be better than average for Wilson’s phalaropes, yellow-headed blackbirds and now another Great Plains species, the Dickcissel. Large numbers of this sparrow-like grassland bird have been reported from weedy fields, pastures and other dry open areas around the state.
As we head into the unofficial start of summer, bird migration is winding down. Shorebirds are the most prominent remaining migrants, many of them headed for breeding areas on the far northern tundra. Species most commonly being seen include semipalmated, least, and white-rumped sandpipers, ruddy turnstone, sanderling, dunlin, and semipalmated plover. Unusual finds include whimbrel (especially along northern Lake Michigan), red-necked phalarope, and American avocet. Wilson’s phalaropes, a species whose core range lies in the Great Plains, have been far more numerous in the state this spring than any in recent memory.
Birdwatchers are delighting in a bounty of song and color as birds continue to return statewide. Baltimore and orchard orioles, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, ruby-throated hummingbirds and other backyard favorites like house wrens, gray catbirds, American goldfinches and red-headed woodpeckers are showing well in most areas. Warblers are moving later than usual this year with large numbers still being seen in the southern tier of the state, only now including later species like Canada, bay-breasted, and Connecticut warbler.
The most anticipated time of year for birdwatchers has arrived! Right on schedule, May ushered in a wealth of neotropical migrants this past weekend, including Baltimore and orchard orioles, ruby-throated hummingbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers and more. Not seeing any yet? Don’t despair as this is just the beginning of their return and has been limited mostly to the southern half of the state so far. Now is the time, though, even up north, to fill the seed feeders, prep the sugar water and offer orange halves and jelly.
Ready for spring? We have good news for you – in the bird world, it’s underway! Southeast Wisconsin always sees the first migrants, and this year is no exception as the first red-winged blackbirds, killdeer and sandhill cranes have been reported there. American robins overwintered in good numbers, but new migrants are also moving in now. Horned larks, an early migrant of open grasslands and agricultural fields, are also showing well on rural roadsides. Farther north, trumpeter swans are returning to limited areas of open water, and the first bald and golden eagles have begun to wing their way northward overhead.
The year’s biggest birding news so far is mild, dry weather allowing some species to linger much longer or in higher numbers than usual.