The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Different Seasons, Different Birds

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      Share your experience participating in this lesson's activities. Comment on as many or as few activities as you'd like.
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    • Lorri
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 4: My favorite birding spot has a pond, a marsh, and a wetland. Currently I find a lot of tree swallows, three kinds of ducks, many red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, Northern Cardinals, three kinds of woodpeckers, killdeer, and yellow warblers pretty regularly. According the bar chart for this location, the mallard ducks, mourning doves, Northern Cardinals, woodpeckers, and killdeer will still be around in the winter. The red-winged blackbirds will disappear briefly in the winter, the tree swallow should be gone after July, and the warblers should be gone soon. In the winter the Dark-Eyed Juncos and the Tree Sparrows will return.
    • Lorri
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 3: With respect to the American Goldfinch, it is much brighter in the summer although some of the photos seem to show some molting as well. In the winter, it still has some suggestion of yellow but much more muted so that it blends into the drab winter scenery better. The brighter yellow summer plumage may help it attract a mate but also it much easier to hide in the bright green leaves of summer. The Common Loon has a much greater contrast in the black and white in the summer. The more muted dark grey of winter blends in better with the water and would be harder to see. Again, I wonder if the more contrasting blacks and whites helps it attract a mate.
    • Lorri
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 2: Three birds that live in Michigan year around are the Blue Jay, the Black-Capped Chickadee, and the Northern Cardinal. Three birds that only live here in the summer are the House Wren, the Yellow Warbler, and the Baltimore Oriole. These are all fairly common birds during the correct season.
    • Lorri
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 1: I found it interesting that birds often times migrate in a clockwise direction. In particular I noticed that pattern with the Rufous Hummingbird. I did not find it as noticeable with other species. I was also struck by the Sandhill Crane migrating across the Bering Strait to Russia. While I view the continents as divided in my mind, the world appears much rounder to birds. When exploring some of the other species, I was surprised to see that Barn Swallows exist on six of the continents. While the oceans were a significant barrier to humans they seem to be less of a barrier to some species of birds.
    • Jason
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 4 is one I look forward to trying. In my bird garden, I usually see Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, House Finches, and woodpeckers in the winter. However, I have been lucky enough to spot Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks in the spring and summer!
    • Ann
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 2,3:  Three year-round bird species in my area are the Black-capped Chickadee, the Mallard, and the Herring Gull.  Three species that are part time residents are the Yellow Warbler, the Snowy Egret, and the Horned Grebe.  I have only seen the Horned Grebe in his non-breeding plumage that is very plain compared to his breeding plumage (from which he gets his name.) Here is a photo of the Horned Grebe in Dec. 2023.  The breeding Horned Grebe has a long golden tuft behind a red eye, & is more colorful neck & body. Horned Grebe Kettle Cove Activity 4:  My favorite birding spot is a small state park on the ocean.  Right now I can see Double- Crested Cormorants, Laughing Gulls and Purple Sandpipers.  They will all be gone by winter, but in December & January I should be able to see a Common Loon in winter plumage, a Long Tailed Duck & a Red Breasted Merganser. This photo is a Long Tailed Duck. Long Tailed Duck 2
    • Catherine
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I chose activity 3. The goldfinch's black and white wings pretty much stay the same year round.  Even in the bleak of winter, the male still has a 'cast' of yellow in his feathers. The loon changes completely!  The big clue for me is the distinctive shape of the bird.
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 3 I compared the summer and winter plumage of the American goldfinch and the common loon.  Both male birds looked much more striking in the spring and summer, which would be the time to attract a mate.  In the winter, their colors were much more subdued, which would enable them to blend in better with their habitat and avoid predators.
    • Kristin
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I use merlin a lot for sound ID and the picture ID if I get a good one.  First time I used the likely birds function and found it very interesting.  I went through several of the birds I have been seeing regularly at my feeder like the dark eyed junco, bluebirds, cardinals, house finch as well as some of the herons I see around a pond on my walks.  I never knew that the dark eyed junco is only in my area during breeding season and that the great blue heron actually is year round.  I definitely would not have guessed the great blue heron is year round.  I plan to start using this function when I identify any new bird to learn more about it's migration patterns.
    • Krystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 11
      Activity 1: the first pairing was as I expected - the Northern Cardinal stays within the same general area year-round while the Blackburnian Warbler migrates. The last pair was very unexpected. Both go north to breed with the Sandhill Crane going up into the Arctic - though they also live in Florida year-round. Retirees, I guess. Activity 2: Most of the birds shown in Merlin as "most likely" are also year-round, even when I change the setting to "year-round" (blue jay, northern mockingbird, red-bellied woodpecker to name three - and I see them daily). The top three seasonal birds, who visit us only in the winter (Tampa, FL), are the palm warbler, the yellow-rumped warbler, and the grey catbird. I have seen all of these seasonal birds but I only discovered a month or so ago that I figured out what the palm warbler looks like here in their non-breeding season. I had been dismissing that identification because they weren't as yellow as they looked in most of the pictures I had seen. On a recent local Audubon walk I learned about the yellow-rumped warbler (or "butter butt" as a member of the group called it). The catbird I had heard and identified using Merlin before.
    • Diana
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      I can’t find the “most likely”  feature on Merlin.  What am I doing wrong? March 2014.  Western bluebirds and meadowlarks are in their full glory right now. They are singing, flirting and finding nests.  Okanagan Similkameen, British Columbia
      • Krystal
        Participant
        Chirps: 11
        In my app (Android), there is a filter by button in the top-right corner of the screen. Once you open that up, you can sort by the most likely birds for my area. You can change the date from Today to pick a specific date or select Year-Round. Screenshot_20240329-192021
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 2 - Using Merlin's Most Likely list of birds in my home area - 3 that stay year round are Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Chickadee.  3 that travel through for part of the year include White-Crowned Sparrow, Dark Eyed Junco, and Yellow Rumped Warbler.
    • Harry
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Differences in plumage: American Goldfinch- Brighter yellow in Summer, tan/brown in winter.  Beak seems to be orange in Summer, gray in the winter? White/gray breast in winter vs yellow breast in Summer.  Black cap in Summer not present in winter.   Common Loon- White neck and throat in the winter, in the Summer black neck and green throat.  Distinct black hood in Summer is not present in Winter.  Black and white striped necklace in the Summer not present in Winter.  Silver bill in Winter is black in Summer.  White spots on back in Summer are white tips to feathers in Summer.
    • Harry
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Merlin - I am in Northeast Indiana, three birds that are year-round here: 1) Mute swan 2) Bald eagle 3) Eastern bluebird   Only in the winter: 1) Redhead 2) American tree sparrow 3) Dark-eyed junco
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Merlin - I am near Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.  But I live in a village.  I have seen red bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker and hairy woodpecker at the feeders in my yeard as well as the american goldfinch, mourning dove, blue jay, american crow, american robin, tufted titmouse, white breasted nuthatch, house finch,  house sparrow, junco and cardinal.  I have heard the carolina wren.
    • Lennart
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      2: In Winter Germany, the redwing the Mountain finch and the Fieldfare are guests which are breeding in northern Europe and russia in the Summer. 3: The finches have the black cap only in summer. The Common loon has a beutiful black Head with white and Green Details in summer while its white and grey in Winter. 4:While i enjoy watching sparrows, robins and the fieldfare in Winter i really Hope to See my First redstart, bluethroat and Goldfinch.
    • Activity 3: I was aware of the change of color of the goldfinch, but had never noticed that their beaks are orange in the summer!
    • Kristian
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 1: Northern cardinal: Very still and not much transitioning, a little shift during the summer months but not much. Mostly move within the US east of the midline and Texas. Blackburnian Warbler: June through August they spend their time up in north eastern Canada and New England. Mid November through the start of April they are in north part of South America (Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela). Migration periods are from April to start of June, and August through October.  They follow the path North through Mexico and the gulf, and going south they stay east more and pass over Florida and go straight south. Scarlet Tanger: spends winter in South America as low as Peru and Bolivia, travels north in April through Mexico and gulf, kind of avoiding parts of Florida, followed by a summer in northern US, then in August/September they start making there way back down and cover Florida more and fly back towards southern Mexico back into South America. Western Tanger: spends winter in Mexico, following a wide migration path on the western side of the US from April and May, till they fly back down as soon as August and follow the same path back till they reach Mexico again in early November. Ruby Throated Hummingbird: stays in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and Guatemala and south Mexico during winter and migrates north to north eastern US from May through September then travels south on same path back for winter. Rufous Hummingbird: From October through start of March they stay around the center of Mexico May till they move up north along the western coast of California, and land in Canada during April where till June they are spending time up in western Canada (British Columbia), and Mid June they start to move back south but there migration back south is a lot wider stretching across the whole western side of US until they reach Mexico again in October. Sandhill Crane: Region is very scattered from eastern Midwest and South by Florida and Texas, to Canada and as far north as Alaska. March they move north staying from April to August, then migrate from September through November back south from Canada to mostly Texas and Florida and parts of South West region. There path is usually the same going and coming from there previous location. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher: migrates North in May from South Mexico and Nicaragua and El Salvador and Guatemala like the Ruby Throated Hummingbird but to north east Canada where they stay and follow the same path back in August and September for the winter. It’s very surprising how some species have a different path north than south and some follow the same path directly. Some species travel farther and some stay very local. Some travel earlier and some later.  Learning a whole lot for just starting out.   Activity 2: The American Robin which I’ve seen plenty of. The Belted Kingfisher is a year round resident as well but I haven’t seen it. Finally the Ring-billed Gull is up at the coast of Lake Erie all year and seen plenty. In terms of species that live here in Northeast Ohio for part of the year are the Fox sparrow from October to June with peaks in April and November and not sure if I seen it or not. Second is the Horned Grebe from November to May peaking in November and haven’t seen. Third is the Yellow-rumped Warbler from September to June peaking October and May since it is a migrating bird.   Activity 3: The Male American Goldfinch in summer has black wings and cap, and bright yellow with white stripes. In the winter it is white on the belly,  dull brownish yellow on the sides, wings are still black with a dominant white stripe. Small to no cap or crown, and yellowish throat patch. The Common Loon in summer has black head and bill, with a black and white spotted body, on wings and sides. Also it has a black throat collar. In the winter, its dull and dark brown, white throat, dark gray head, with white on the bill.   Activity 4: My favorite birding spot would be my own back yard. We are right on a hill and small lake and have the metro parks directly behind us. Right now there is a lot of Black Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Great Blue Herons, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Robins. In 6 months we should be the American Redstart, Yellow Throated Vireo, Cliff Swallow, Chimney Swift, and many more.
    • Crystal
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      • Activity 1:  The ranges of the Northern Cardinal and the Blackburnian Warbler are very different. The Northern Cardinal is a year round resident of the Eastern United States versus the Blackburnian Warbler who spends spring and fall on the Eastern United States and parts of Canada, Mexico and South America. With a nonbreeding range in South America and a breeding range in Canada. The Scarlet Tanager and the Western Tanager have much more similar migration patterns than the previous pair. The Western Tanager’s range is the western United States with a small year round population near the Mexico border. Their overall migration is shorter not going past Mexico. Compared to the Scarlet Tanager whose breeding range is similar, just on the Eastern United States. They have no year round range and spend time in Mexico while migrating to South America for winter. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird compared with the Rufous Hummingbird have similar ranges just on opposite coasts of the United States. The Ruby-Throated spends its breeding season across the Eastern United States and the nonbreeding season in Mexico. The Rufous Hummingbird is interesting in that its routes for migrating are different. In the spring its migration is mainly along California but when it migrates south for winter it covers a much larger area covering not only California but also Nevada, Utah and part of Colorado. This really surprised me as I didn’t know migration routes changed that much from spring to fall. The Sandhill Crane versus the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is an interesting comparison. They both spend the breeding season all across Canada but then the migration of the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher stays to the Eastern United States and winters in Mexico. Compared to the Sandhill Crane who migrates down the middle of the United States and then follows what looks like all four of the United States Flyways. This is very different than all the other birds we have compared in this activity in that its winter range is distributed across the US in four main areas.
      • Activity 2: 3 Birds that are year-round residents in my area are Mourning Doves, Anna’s Hummingbirds and Lesser Goldfinches. 3 Species that are only here for part of the year are Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Sparrows in winter and Wilson’s Warblers in summer. I also enjoy seeing birds I haven’t seen for a while show up again. I associate the changing weather and trees with the changing bird species which makes summer and winter birding different.
      • Activity 3: The male American Goldfinch in summer is a vibrant yellow with dark black wings and forehead. This is dramatically different than the male in nonbreeding which is a much duller color almost tan and could be mistaken for a different species since it loses the solid black wings and forehead spot. I usually see them in winter and miss out on seeing them in their bright yellow appearance.  The Common Loon also looks like an entirely different bird from summer to winter. In summer it has a dark black head and has a dramatic white spots on its wings that look like an optical illusion. In winter it is a much duller simple bird and the black head and wings turns to gray with no spots. I would love to see this bird, but it is rare where I live.
      • Activity 4: Right now, at my favorite birding spot I see White-crowned Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Nuttall’s Woodpecker and Western Bluebirds. In 6 months, I would expect to see warblers like the Wilson’s Warblers and the Yellow Warblers and Hooded Orioles.
    • Theresa
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 3: The male American Goldfinch looks much different from summer to winter. In the summer they are a bright golden yellow with black accents like a black crown. In the winter they are a dull yellow maybe even light brown. They have also gotten ride of all of their black spots that can be seen in their summer plumage The Common Loon also makes large changes in their plumage from summer to winter. In summer they have a beautiful coat of black feathers on the head followed by a band of emerald green on the neck and then spotted black and white body. In the winter their colors are subdued and more of a white and grey rather than that beautiful deep black.
    • Jena
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 2 I see Black Phoebes American Crows and Acorn Woodpeckers and many others everyday. I have yet to identify visiting species. Perhaps on my walk today.  
    • Gregory
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: The northern cardinal is non-migratory and has a large range centered in the southeastern states, while the Blackburnian warbler is extremely migratory, with very high densities in small ranges for relatively small periods of the year (I was surprised to see its abundance in the Appalachians, mostly avoided by cardinals, during the breeding season). The scarlet tanager and western tanager are extremely well-separated geographically with the former in the eastern US and the latter in the western US during the breeding season and, somewhat surprisingly to me, the former in northern South America and the latter along the Pacific coast of Mexico during the non-breeding season. The ruby-throated hummingbird and rufous hummingbird are similar in this respect, but their migration patterns have a more pronounced geographic cycle, with both staying closer to the oceans on the journey northward. The sandhill crane has a significantly less sharp migratory pattern than the yellow-bellied flycatcher and mostly occupies a larger geographic range, with some clearly observable distinct populations (such as those that remain in Florida during the breeding season). Activity 2: Ring-billed gulls, Canada geese, and house sparrows are year-round residents, while chimney swifts and Caspian terns start appearing in mid-to-late spring and depart in mid-to-late autumn, and red-winged blackbirds are abundant from March through August and present but not abundant for the remainder of the year. I have seen all of these birds, but did not pay much attention to the seasonality of the swifts and terns before. Activity 3: In the summer, male American goldfinches have bright yellow bodies with strong black crowns and wings and orange bills, while in the winter, they are mostly brown, with vaguely yellow faces and black bills. Common loons have the same general color scheme in summer and winter of dark backs and light bellies, but the black feathers are much more dramatically black in the summer (especially the hood) and the checkered pattern of their backs is very striking, as are the red eyes. Activity 4: At a park I have visited often before, green herons, yellow-billed cuckoos, and ruby-throated hummingbirds can sometimes be found at this time of year; in 6 months, double-crested cormorants, American coots, and hooded mergansers should be present.
    • chris
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      The "likely Birds in my area" feature in merlin shows many different birds that visit my area and many that are also year round friends too! some of them are the Bald eagle, Red winged Blackbird, European starling and black capped chickadee's too.  some of the birds that are seasonal visitors include cedar waxwings (they can be persuaded to winter here if we get enough berries aparently!), swainsons thrush and the Vaaux's swift.  I have seen most of these birds before and some of them are even culturally significant because of my communities history with many of the animals that have traditionally been found here however I have yet to meet a Vaux's Swift and am currently looking to the sky for flying black specks to point my binoculars at to say hi to our flying little friend some day.  some of the Birds we can expect in one of my favourate birdwatching spots are the Bufflehead and Mallard ducks as well as Canada Geese which all make sense as my spot in mind is along the shore of a slow moving slough and we often see all these species moving in large packs and floating along the water.
    • Camille
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 2: Merlin's Likely Birds Year-round Birds Seen: Mallard, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin Not seen: Cedar Waxing, Eastern Bluebird   Part-of-the-Year Birds Seen: Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush Not seen: Warbling Vireo; Blue Grosbeak; Indigo Bunting