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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    • 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: 4
      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
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 2 Three bird species that live in my area all year round are pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, and black-capped chickadees. I have seen all three throughout the year at my backyard feeders. Three species that live in my area for part of the year are Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, and yellow warblers. I have never seen these species in my area. I will be on the lookout for them during the fall when they migrate through my area. Activity 3 Male American goldfinches are bright yellow with black foreheads and wings in the summer. At that time its tail is also black. It has a pale bill. In the winter, the same male American goldfinch species are notably different. They  are dull yellow-olive; darker above, with black wings and conspicuous wing bars. Their bills are dark. Activity 4 Birds I expect to see now: mourning doves, turkey vultures, ruby-throated hummingbirds, downy woodpeckers, American crows, blue jays, Eastern wood-pewees, American robins, black-capped chickadees, and song sparrows. Birds I expect to see in six months: double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls, American coots, mourning doves, bald eagles, various woodpeckers, blue jays, crows, American robins, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos. and European starlings.
    • Mark
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1
      • Northern Cardinal with Blackburnian Warbler - I noticed that the Northern Cardinal remains in the same location all year round and does not seem to migrate. The Blackburnian Warbler, however, does migrate pretty far from northern Canada during the breeding seasons to northern South America during the non-breeding season. I noticed that this bird migrates through Northern Ohio in the fall and spring so I hope to spot one in the fall.
      • Scarlet Tanager with Western Tanager - I noticed that the scarlet tanager follows the same migratory path in the spring and fall. They travel from South America to the Eastern United States and back again. The Western Tanager, on the other hand, travels from Mexico to the western part of the United States. It shocks me these two different types of tanagers take migratory paths that do not overlap
      • Ruby-throated Hummingbird with Rufous Hummingbird - Ruby-throated hummingbirds travel from Mexico to the Eastern United States during their yearly migrations. They are abundant in my area of Northern Ohio in the summertime. The Rufous hummingbirds winter location is the same as the ruby-throated hummingbird. However, it breeds in a totally different place: the western part of the United States. The chances of my seeing one in NE Ohio are slim to none
      • Sandhill Crane with Yellow-bellied Flycatcher - Sandhill cranes travel quite a long distance when migrating. They fly from Mexico and the US south all the way up to the northern Canadian Arctic and Alaska. The yellow-bellied flycatcher, in contrast, flies from southern Mexico to southern Canada, a shorter distance.
    • Ruth
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Activity 1 - eBird tool was useful in the comparison of the Cardinal vs Blackburnian Warbler. I was able to compare the Scarlet Tanager vs the Western Tanager their breeding (Pre and Post).  I noticed Scarlet Tanager traveled to the eastern side of Canada and the US and the Western Tanager traveled on the Western to Central Canada and USA.  The Hummingbirds had a similar pattern. Activity#2 I do not have a mobile phone but a cell phone and unable to look up on Merlin's app.  The most likely birds here are robins, sparrows and swallows. Activity #3 The Macauley Library was excellent.  Two significant birds listed were American Gold finches and Loons with similar breeding times in the summer.  In the winter, I noticed that the colors were dull, in the winter, for both types of birds. Activity #4 My favorite place locally is the Consumnes River Preserve left from a man named Galt from Canada.  It is a fun park and monitored by the Federal Government with a Ranger.  There are 250 species of birds.  Egrets come to this area and I saw a stork (no picture) which is rare and found down south at UCSB.  I recently found out there are cranes south of here about 8 to 10 miles from Consumnes River but have not been to the site. Also, UCD in Davis, CA has a wetland as well.  I have not been able to locate but found the web page.  I have not reached out to other groups but needed to review a course, such as this first, to regain information Ruth
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Actity 4 -My favourite birding spot is actually a short stretch of road that winds itself through the small township of Keene, Ontario.  Along this road, the village has placed nesting nesting platforms.  When I drive out to Keene, I like to look for the nesting platforms.  This past week, when I was out there, I found Ospreys around the platforms working on building their  nest.  Most nests had one of the pair, sitting in the platform while the other one was collecting building materials or hunting.  What a wonderful outing! and watching them closely in flight, eating and working hard always make my day. It saddens me as well now, when I think of going out there 6 months from now only to discover the platforms emptyas  the Osprey have raised their families and have started--or probaby already left to their winter grounds.
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 3 - Comparing the appearance of a male American Goldfinch as well as a Common Loon in the summer and then in the winter.  The male American Goldfinch is mainly a bright yellow - like a canrary-- in the summer, but he sports s black cap, black and white patches on his wings along with some black trim on the outside of his wings.  His beak is bright orange. In the winter the plumage changes to a dull brown.  The cap on his head is now brown and a little lighter towards the back. There is still black and white on the wings and it's beak is brown. The Common Loon has a solid black head and red eyes.  There is a vertical-striped band of black and white stripes and a band of green on the neck.The back  is black and white and the breast is white.  In the winter the feathers change to grey and white.  The head is partially gray with black striping.  The band of green and striping are no longer visible  on the neck.  The breast is white and the back is a brown-black colour and the white striping is not as disttinctivre.
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      Activity 2 -- 2nd Attempt. According to Merlin, there are many birds likely to be in my area of Ontario, Canada--many of which, I have never had the pleasure of seeing! Three birds that are year-long residents and birds that frequent my feeders are: White Breasted , Red  Breasted Nuthatch and the Hairy Woodpecker. Three birds that are in the area now, that made my sightings special this week of April, were Osprey. Tree Swallow and Sandhill Crane--a lifer for me!! 20230417_115015 Osprey on nesting platform.  I checked out 6 platforms and all of them were either occupied or in the throes of nest building. It was so exciting. tree swallow Tree Swallow - Such pretty birds and watching them in flight--so graceful and fast. 2023-04-10 Sand Hill Crane  -  Miller Creek-3(2)   Sandhill Crane - a first sighting for me.  My grandaughter thought it was an Ostrich.  Landed in a wet farmer's field.  So cool to see.
    • Amber
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 2: The birds that I see for year-round are red-bellied woodpeckers, mallards, and black-capped chickadees. In 6 months (October), I imagine there will be many migratory birds--different warblers, waterfowl (like grebes), and kinglets.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      Activity 4: I have had feeders for several years but I am still new to birding as a hobby and mostly watch from my back yard or a wetland area a short drive away. I hope to get out and find a new birding location this spring / summer and if I do I will definitely visit again 6 months later to notice the difference. For now the main difference that I notice is the spring return of the hummingbirds, bluebirds and robins since these birds were not in my area all winter.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      Activity 3:  I love the way the goldfinches change color – especially the male goldfinch who gets so bold in the summer with his bright yellow color. He is dull and kind of drab in winter and I don’t usually notice him (if he is even here) but as spring comes he gradually starts getting brighter and brighter. It is a wonderful site that I look forward to each year. I love to see the bright finches feasting on sunflowers planted in a field not too far away.
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      Activity 2:  Three birds that are year round residents in my area are: Mourning Dove (I live their cooing song), Downy Woodpecker (I was able to photograph one today nibbling on suet balls - see attached picture) and American Goldfinch (Harder to notice in winter due to dull color but so pretty in spring and summer). WP Three that live in my area for part of the year are: Purple Martin, Eastern Bluebird (My husband installed 4 bluebird nesting boxes – I hope they choose my yard to nest in this year), and Red-Winged Blackbirds (fun to see on fence posts or telephone wires as I take my walks on our country road)
    • Marjorie
      Participant
      Chirps: 25
      Activity 1: To be honest, I had a little trouble navigating the animated trend maps.  I was finally able to view the Ruby throated Hummingbird but could not pull up the Rufous Hummingbird for a comparison. Until looking at  the list and pictures on the ebird link  I did not realize there were quite that many different kinds of hummingbirds in our world.  What amazing creatures! Hummingbirds begin to return to my areas in Southern Ohio in mid-April and stay until mid-September.   I hung my feeders out today and made my first batch of food for the season.  I enjoy watching them all spring and summer.  I will revisit the trend map to view more species soon.
    • Bill
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 2: For the year round residents in Western Washington, I chose the Red-breasted Nuthatch (so cute), the Anna's Hummingbird and the Downy Woodpecker which all visit my yard almost every day all year. For part-year visitors, I picked the Violet-green Swallow (just returned here in early April), the Golden-crowned sparrow (which will leave soon), and the Varied Thrush (beautiful all winter but gone mid-summer). Activity 3: The American Goldfinches are rather amazing for the plumage change. We have them year round here in Puget Sound, but only a couple grayish hardy souls through the winter. The bright yellow birds disappear in November for the most part, then come back by the dozens in later March but they are only starting to molt so they are a mottled mess of grayish brown and bright yellow. Now in mid-April they are all >90% yellow. Amazing. I had no idea that the Common Loons changed so much - cool.