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May Brings a Variety of Colorful Migrants To Eastern Seaboard

Spring Migrants in the Northeast.
Spring Migrants in the Northeast. Video Credit: John Haffey
Prairie Warblers are immediately recognizable by their buzzy song.
Prairie Warblers are immediately recognizable by their buzzy song. Photo Credit: William Haffey
An inquisitive Black-and-white Warbler.
An inquisitive Black-and-white Warbler. Photo Credit: William Haffey
Yellow Warblers are common throughout the region.
Yellow Warblers are common throughout the region. Photo Credit: William Haffey
A male Baltimore Oriole.
A male Baltimore Oriole. Photo Credit: William Haffey

The first week of May ushers in perhaps the most exciting month of birding in the tristate area. Migration season, no more than a quiet trickle for the month of April, suddenly switches into high gear.

Birds that have been absent from the region since last fall reappear overnight, bringing with them an ever-changing dawn chorus. Blossoming pears and crabapples are filled with the whistles of Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, and muddy streams ring with the song of Northern Waterthrushes.

Chimney Swifts and a variety of swallows dart overhead, while bird feeders welcome Rose- breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. The incredible diversity of birds during spring migration makes it both overwhelming and thrilling opportunity to see species that may be otherwise hard to locate.

While some May migrants are common throughout the region in summer, others only pass by during a narrow window in spring. Some of the most charismatic species, the wood warblers, are especially abundant this time of year, sporting bright colors on their way to points further north. Because migrating birds are frequently exhausted, they can be seen foraging in habitats that seem inhospitable or heavily degraded.

A walk through a city park or even a well-planted yard can yield a number of warblers, from the familiar to the unusual. Shrub are home to sprightly Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers, and larger trees for Blackpoll and Blackburnian Warblers.

Most species sing incessantly this time of year, and a grasp of common songs can help identify those that escape the eye. No matter what your experience is, be sure to spend some time this spring enjoying the sounds and colors of our most special birds.

William Haffey is currently a seminarian for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. and has a background in avian ecology. He has birded extensively in the United States and Latin America.

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