Statewide birding report: Breeding season winding down, southbound migration underway
By Ryan Brady
DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program Biologist
WISCONSIN – August is here, and with it comes the tail end of breeding season for most species and the start of migration for many others. You have likely noticed bird song has declined drastically now as territorial and courtship behaviors begin to wind down.
But all is not quiet. Many juvenile birds have fledged and can be heard begging for food from busy parents as family groups move across the landscape. In some cases, juvenile birds are on their own already, while others, like blackbirds, swallows, cranes, and some warblers, are starting to congregate in same and mixed-species flocks.
Many adult birds undergo their only or primary feather molt this time of year, meaning missing tails, bald heads, disheveled plumage, and even the inability to fly (e.g. waterfowl) are widespread.
And like it or not, southbound migration is underway. Adult shorebirds, which depart the breeding grounds first, have been on the move since early July. Now they are being joined by the first juveniles, with the entire shorebird migration to peak later this month.
Solitary sandpipers, least sandpipers, and lesser yellowlegs are especially common, but nearly a couple dozen other species are possible. Look for these long-distance migrants in flooded fields (a.k.a. “fluddles”), exposed shorelines, and drying wetlands. Those wetlands are great places to find many other birds too like great blue and green herons, great egrets, American bitterns, Virginia and sora rails, and various ducks.
Landbirds have also started to migrate, including the arrival of Tennessee warblers from farther north and departure of some orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and flycatchers. Find a wealth of woodland species by checking edge habitats, fruit sources, and following the chickadees or other local birds that often signify a foraging flock this time of year.
In the backyard, observers are reporting an increase in activity as young orioles, grosbeaks, finches, and woodpeckers come for a meal. Now is a great time to provide a water source such as a bird bath, fountain, mister, or small pond. Hummingbird feeders and garden blooms are also becoming very busy as young birds fledge. Remember to clean feeders and change the solution every 1-3 days during this warm time of year.
And keep your eyes peeled because you never know what may show up. Case in point, this week’s rarest bird in the state was a Mexican violetear found on August 2-3 in Crawford County, marking the 8th state record of this large, dark green hummingbird typically found in Mexico and Central America!
Rare or not, help us track bird populations and movements by reporting your bird sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding!