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.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When bird migration begins and ends

Is migration nearly over? We've had several window strikes lately and I think it was because these birds were new to the area and just migrating through. ~ Ann Arbor, Michgian
  
Migration is never over. There are birds moving all around the world all the time. However spring and fall migration is when a lot of birds shift to different territories. Right now there are first year birds and new birds migrating throughout the area and unfortunately the change in light and unfamiliar surroundings cause birds to fall victim to window strikes. Birds also strike windows as they quickly try to escape predators, hitting glass in a moment of panic. 

Window strikes are hard to totally eliminate, but there are ways to reduce them and/or reduce their severity. Decals like Window Alert placed on the outside of windows have had the most positive feedback from customers. Each decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds.
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Mid-Michigan has already said good bye to the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, the orioles and all the other black birds. Most of the warblers and kinglets have already passed through by the end of October too.
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Right now I’m watching the White-throated Sparrows making a pit stop in my yard for a few weeks before they continue further south. The first wave of Dark-eyed Juncos are passing through right now too. The Junco’s we see now are probably females and may continue on all the way to Florida. The boys are the ones that winter with us in mid-Michigan so they can be the first in the spring to zip up to the nesting territories and stake a claim.
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I also just saw the White-crowned Sparrows which usually show up in my yard mid-November. Like the white-throated they don’t stick around long but they are a large sparrow with striking white racing stripes on their head. And I'm excited about the number of Red-breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins I'm seeing which like to winter in our area.

A lot of birds dependent on open waters like the herons, geese, swans and other waterfowl and shorebirds wait until the water freezes before they move south. The end of October to December can be their migration time.

And while they are flying south, a couple of “horny” birds kick off another breeding season. In mid-December you hear the Great Horned Owl calling for a mate. They actually start to nest in January or February. The Horned Lark also performs an elaborate song-flight courtship display in the beginning of the year. Horned-larks are one of our earliest nesting birds. In some states, nests may be found in February. This can mean that the first set of eggs is often destroyed by snowstorms.

In March the black birds start to return. In April and May lots of other birds are journeying north only to see some birds going back down south again as early as June. So in Michigan we are lucky to always see something interesting in our yard whether they are our local regular birds, fly-by birds, wintering or summering birds. A good field guide can help you remember all the comings and goings of the birds or it might be fun to keep a journal.

Related Articles:
- The Journey North: Bird Migration Maps http://bit.ly/pbk4Eb
- Great Horned Owl Singing at Night http://bit.ly/qKeKDM
- Are Horned Larks Common in Mid-Michigan? http://bit.ly/qmAbt7
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d  
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- Bird only in mid-Michigan during the winter http://bit.ly/ojcyP7
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

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