About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New birds to look for in the spring

A lot of people ask me in the spring, “Have you seen any new birds?” One of the fun aspects of bird feeding is that you never know who might show up in your yard. Some birds people are excited to see as the weather warms are the hummingbirds, orioles, bluebirds, robins and wrens.

I’m always excited to see the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows in the spring. These two bird species only migrate through mid-Michigan in the spring and fall. You can look for them under the feeders from late April to late May and again sometime in September to November. They show up in mid-Michigan right after the last frost in the spring and right before the first snow in the fall. They breed all along the upper parts of Canada and winter along the southern United States.

They migrate at night, so I was so happy when I woke up to the White-throated singing in my yard. I always hear the birds before I see them. To me the White-throated Sparrows have a song that sounds like a chickadee yodeling. Birders describe their song as "poor Sam Peabody, Peabody,Peabody" and the White-crowned Sparrow as "poor-wet-wetter-chee-zee".

Both are medium sized sparrows similar to a House Sparrow except for the black-and-white racing stripes on their heads. The white-throated also has a conspicuous white throat and yellow spots between eyes and bill.

White-throated Sparrows like to scratch on the ground with a series of quick kicks when they feed and remind me of chickens. These birds follow a well-defined hierarchy, which puts males ahead of females and older sparrows ahead of younger sparrows. The oldest male birds are the ones that sing the most.

White-crowned Sparrows tend to visit feeders early and late in the day. They enjoy millet and also will eat sunflower chips. They will avoid conflicts when eating by facing the same direction as other birds. If the weather is good they’ll stay just long enough to rest and refuel. While migrating north, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.

Let me know what birds you're waiting for on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lansingwbu).

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