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

    • Peter
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      The markings that common loon are known for, the interspersed black and white pretty much all over the body, are prevalent during the summer months, and greatly subdued in the winter months, often replaced by duller white markings interspersed with brown markings.
    • Peter
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      A favorite birding location in the Vancouver, Canada area is the Reifel Bird Sanctuary.  As an example of how bird species move in and out of this sanctuary, Snow Goose, Bufflehead, and Trumpeter Swan are relatively less common now (August) than they typically are in February, while the reverse is the case for Cinnamon Teal, Kildeer, and the Tree Swallow.
    • Peter
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Ruby-throated hummingbird and Rufous Hummingbird overwinter in the same location (Mexico) but the formal breeds in eastern North America while the latter breeds in western North America. The Scarlet Tanager moves between northern South America (winter) and eastern North America, while the Western Tanager moves between Mexico and Latin America (winter) and western North America (summer).
    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 24
      Activity #3: The plumage of the male American Goldfinch in winter is much more vibrant and colorful...Bright yellow with a black crown. When I historically thought of an American Goldfinch, this is what I imagined. The plummage in the summer however, is more pale, drab, and blended. It resembles the female. The same is true for the Common Loon. The Loon loses it's gorgeous black colorations for more drab and plain feathers. Are the summer feathers of these two birds examples of eclipse plummage?
      • Joan
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Loved seeing Goldfinch in Port Townsend
      • Joan
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Loved seeing Goldfinch in Port Townsend and Brandts, surf scoters, and Mergansers in Edmonds (Puget Sound)
    • Angeleque
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      We live in the Adirondacks. Our favorite spots are Little Green Pond and Mountain Pond June through October as the Loons are there and it is breeding time. Also, no Goldfinch pictures today.
    • Angeleque
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Note that the Northern Cardinal abundance animation is not available today, June 6, 2022.
    • Shelby
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      All year residents of where I live: Wood ducks, Killdeer and Mourning Doves. Funny enough, I have yet to see a Wood Duck close up! And randomly, there are dozens of Killdeer that hang out in the gravelly construction area and rain reservoir around my apartment building. Mourning Doves have been my favorite for a while now, so I find them easy to identify through sight and sound. Part of the year residents where I live: BlueWinged Teal, Mississippi Kite and Common Nighthawk. I haven’t spotted any of these, but used the Merlin Sound ID once on a golf course and it ID-ed the Common Nighthawk. This is one I would love to see in person!
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 3: Male American Goldfinch (Breeding): The yellow in most of its body is more intense. Intense dark with white patches in the lower part of the wing and in the forehead. The beak is orange. Nonbreeding: Brown/yellowish head with no black parts over the beak; white patches on dark gray on the wings. Common Loon: In Summer colors of the plumage are more intense. Black in the neck with some stripes in the neck that go all along the lower part of the body. Black with white spots in the back. In Winter colors are dull, more grayish. The red in the eyes is the same in Summer and Winter. Activity 4: Birding Spot: Dora Kelley Nature Park: What I expect to find now: Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, Chimney Swift. Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler. What I expect to find in six months: all year residents such as Northern Cardinal, Red-Shoulder Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, European Starling, House Sparrow, Song Sparrow.
    • WLMII
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      ACTIVITY 1: Its interesting how many winter in Central and South America and then head to Canada to breed. Also interesting many birds like both the Summer Tanager and the Western Tanager avoid the Great Plains in both directions of their migration.  I imaging food and shelter aren't nearly as plentiful for these types. Its amazing how far those little hummingbirds travel.  I wonder why so many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds concentrate in my home state of Missouri. The Sandhill Crane's migration from the Southern US and Northern Mexico to the far north and even parts of Siberia really shocked me.  I also thought it was interesting that a small portion of them just stay in Florida the whole year. ACTIVITY 2:  My year-rounds in Missouri are the Northern Cardinal, Killdeer, and Northern Bobwhite.  I see cardinals all of the time and Killdeer frequently.  This spring was the first time I'd seen or heard a Bobwhite since I was a kid. My part of the year birds are the Common Gallinule, Screech Owl, and the Scissor-tailed flycatcher.  Of these three, I have only seen the Screech Owl, way back in 2011, and for years I thought I had seen a similarly small Northern Saw-whet owl.  The Common Gallinule and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher are definite goals of mine.  The latter seems like a long shot. ACTIVITY 3: It is interesting how the male American Goldfinch becomes duller but also, id a way, more ornate with bars appearing on its wings.  The breeding male Common Loon reminds me of a wealthy elderly woman wearing chunky jewelry and expensive clothes while out shopping.  The non-breeding winter type reminds me of that wealthy woman's landscaper. ACTIVITY 4: I expect Bald Eagles, hawks, and Cardinals to still be there.  I imagine the area will be a haven for wintering American Robins.  Perhaps some waterfowl but I'm not sure.  Obviously the Canada Geese will still be there.
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      - Year-round residents (Northern Virginia) Carolina Chickadee/ Tufted Titmouse/ White-breasted Nuthatch: the three of them share the same habitat. Both, the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Carolina Chickadee are smaller, but they have specific behaviors. Although they also share the same colors in their plumage their shape is distinct. Their calls are also very particular for each one of them. I hear them and see them all the time, even in the winter they are abundant. - Residents for part of the year: Gray Catbird/ Yellow Warbler/ Wood Thrush: Ii saw the Wood Thrush for the first time last year in the Summer. While birding I was intrigued by this flute-like call that sounded as if it was actually calling me. I waited and followed it until I saw it, a very pleasant finding. I noticed a Gray Catbird last year in the Summer too, then searched information about it and saw it with my binoculars when chirping the cat-like call. Then this year starting in Spring I have seen many of them flying around and with the help of the Merlin ID I have learned more types of its calls, very diverse and lively. The Yellow Warbler I saw it for the first time three weeks ago and was a very pleasant view of a yellow little thing flying close to a river.  Then I searched  more information about it. IMG_1620          Wood Thrush
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: - The Northern Cardinal is abundant in Northeast of US all year round. The Blackburnian Warbler is abundant in this region and Canada in breeding season (June-August). During the pre-breeding season the last one is spread in East US, Central America and along the Andes Range in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In Non-breeding season (December-beginning of March) it is abundant in Costa Rica, mountains of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru. (In Northern Virginia, where I live is abundant in May and June) - The Scarlet Tanager is abundant in the Eastern US in breeding season and in winter flies to Central and South America. (In Northern Virginia we can look for it in May and June). The Western Tanager is abundant in Western US; between July and November it spreads and flies South to Western Mexico and Central America up to Costa Rica. - The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is abundant in Central America between October and March; in April starts migrating North to Eastern US and Canada. The Rufous Hummingbird is plentiful in Western Canada and Northwest US in breeding season; in June starts migrating South. Between October and March most of them will stay in Mexico. - Sandhill Crane: in breeding season spreads in all Canada and Alaska; in August migrates to Central America and Florida. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher: Between May and August spreads in Eastern Canada, then flies South and stays in Central America during the winter.
    • Jeanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Glad to know about the migration patterns; in my area Terns visit, so I can now plan when to see Artic Terns as they take a rest from their veriy long journey! So amazing about Godwits' that fly non-stop! Also glad to know about a compromise was reached between Aududon & the 9/11 Lights! Great things happen with knowledge & undertanding! Jeanne
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      3. Because of molting, Goldfinches are dull in color until spring, when they become bright yellow. I had noticed this at out thistle feeder. I don’t see much difference in the markings on a male common loon. 4. My best local place to find birds is Short Ridge Park in Wynnewood, PA. The grassy area is ringed with large trees of various sorts and a creek runs through the park. During the recent spring, I have heard the usual sparrows plus an American Robin, a golden-crowned Kinglet, a Pine Warbler and a Dark-eyed Junco. In six months I expect to see or hear the sparrows, the Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Dark-eyed Junco, but not the Pine Warbler.
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      2. Most of the birds I see are year around. These include the Northern Cardinal, the Red-tailed Hawk and the White-throated Sparrow. They also seem to be in predictable locations. This spring, I have spied a yellow-rumpled warbler, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a Pine Warbler and I think I can predict where to find them, but only at a certain time of the year.
    • Sarah
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity 1 Northern Cardinals live on our property in the mountains in Virginia year-round and delight us with their color and flight. Since they are the state bird, I was surprised to see that their range extends to Mexico. Blackburnian Warbler migrates an impressive trip from Canada to northern South America. As a child, my family (which consisted of a Canadian mother and a Chilean father) took frequent trips from Virginia to both countries, so I know how far of a journey that is! Scarlet Tanager also migrates from North America to deep into South America. I wonder if it lives in the jungle, with its beautiful red colors. Western Tanager stays on the western edge on its way from North America to Central America. I wonder what it likes about the western side. Ruby-throated Hummingbird come every year to our feeders in late spring. Seeing the migration map reminds me how it really does fly all the way from Mexico. It is cute that one group stays in eastern Florida, I guess because of blooming flowers there. Rufous Hummingbird migrates in the west, made me wonder how migrating birds avoid crashes with airplanes and helicopters, and my heart goes out for them. Sandhill Crane migrate all the way to the artic circle, it seems. That is amazing that they do that. I hope they are protected. Sadly, they avoid these Appalachian Mountains in their southern migration. We see blue herons here most of the year, coming to our pond, but perhaps they have migrated when we don’t see them in winter. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher are rare in our area, but I notice that this is in their range. I would love to see one. I think they have woodpecker habits. In their migration from Mexico to Canada, I wonder if they fly over land or water? Activity 2 Birds we have seen: Bird species- year-round residents- Northern cardinals Blue jay Pileated woodpecker Bird species- only live in our area for part of the year- Ruby-throated hummingbirds Canada goose Great Blue Heron Activity 3: Compare pictures during different seasons: birds in different plumages Summer color and pattern Winter color and pattern similarities Male American Goldfinches Starting around April, their feathers brighten up with glorious yellow. We see flocks of them on our property, and they are absolutely brilliant. Beginning in September, and continuing for six to eight weeks, they molt all of their feathers, ending up with a completely new and pristine set of feathers (and drab colors) as they head into the winter During mating season, the males have spectacular colors and markings. The female is drab, so she can sit on the nest and will blend in, as camouflage. Common Loons In its summer breeding plumage, the common loon has a black-and-white checkered back, iridescent black head and neck, black bill, red eyes, a prominent white “necklace” marking around the neck, and a much smaller white “chinstrap” marking at the throat. In the winter, loons have a much drabber plumage, with gray feathers replacing the black and white ones. Their necks and bellies are white. This plumage provides excellent camouflage while they ride the waves along the coast and on large reservoirs in the south. Activity 4: Think about your favorite birding spot. I was so excited when the Canada goose arrived at the ponds at the birding trail. There were two breeding pairs. The female was sitting on the nest twice when I went walking there. But I was sad to see one day that both pairs were gone.
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      1. Northern Cardinal is abundant year-round in the eastern US, whereas the Blackburnian Warbler’s territory  include the eastern US but adds on Canada and he migrated from South America. The Scarlet Tanager and the Western Tanager are found in opposite sides of the US although the western bird’s range  includes Canada. Both migrates so their presence is seasonal. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummungbird also occupy sides of the US, but both are also found in Central America. The migrate so are seasonal birds. The Sandhill Crane is year-around in the southern US, but can also be found in Alaska and Canada on a seasonal basis. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is also seasonal, but is not found in the South but in Central America, eastern US and Canada. It is year around only in the South.There is a wide variety in location and migration patterns, but non3 of these birds fly across the Major oceans.
    • Terri
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Activity 1 These animated maps are incredible! I was particularly interested in seeing the Sandhill Crane migration. I had the pleasure of seeing the Sandhill Cranes in their winter home in southern Arizona a few weeks ago. There were thousands of them! They are only in one little area of Arizona, so I was fortunate to see them. I now know they can come from as far away as Siberia. Pretty incredible. It was also interesting to see that the Ruby throated Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird go in opposite directions. One flying east and the other west. I was also impressed with the wide range of the Northern Cardinal (even Hawaii) and that they are year-round residents.
    • Cheryl
      Participant
      Chirps: 21
      Activity 1 The Northern Cardinal doesn’t migrate  and the Blackburnian Warbler migrates from western South America to Central America into central and eastern United States up into Canada from the Maritimes to Saskatchewan. Now that’s a long commute. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird begins its migration in Central America to central and eastern United States and the Maritimes and Manitoba of southern Canada. The Rufous Hummingbird starts in a similar area but migrates up the western side of North America into British Columbia. Starting in only two states, Texas and Florida, the Sandhill Crane flies to the Arctic to breed. The tiny Yellow-bellied Flycatcher starts the migration from Central America to central and eastern United States then a small number fly west into British Columbia and the northern territories, but the vast majority spend their summer in Newfoundland, Labrador and northern Quebec. The Scarlet Tanager, like the Blackburnain Warbler winters in western South America and travels to central and eastern United States and the Western Tanager, like its name, likes the western portion of the United States and British Columbia and Alberta. So why do some go west while others prefer the east? Possibly diet? The size of the bird doesn't determine how long its migration is. The smallest of the birds on this list, the Hummingbirds migrate long distances. Until I began looking at migration maps I didn’t realize that "those birds" I saw in my yard were just one offs on their way to their breeding grounds and since then I’ve spent my springs and falls looking for these particular birds again. I may never see them again. Always have a camera ready! Activity 2 I decided to concentrate on waterfowl since I live next to a Great Lake and pick birds I wasn’t familiar with. Two of them, I have only been introduced to within the last 4 weeks. The Long-tailed Duck and the Red-breasted Merganser both are here in the non-breeding season, which means, that pretty soon they will be gone again until next fall. The other non-breeding winter bird is the Canvasback, I’ve yet to find one, but they may have already flown to their breeding grounds. It’s the end of March. The Northern Shoveler and the American Wigeon fly here to breed, so I will keep my eyes open to see if I can find them. The last bird, a Gadwall can be found here all year round. I’m going to look for them. Activity 3 Comparing different plumages in different seasons for the male American Goldfinch and the Common Loon. The bright colours of the male American Goldfinch and the striking patterns of the Common Loon are replaced with muted colours, tones and pattern overall during the non-breeding season. The male American Goldfinch still keeps his black wings with white wing bars and markings, but becomes a buff colour in the chest and back and loses his black cap during the winter. The loon, both male and female, change their plumage from the black head, black and white stripes, spots and greenish throat necklace to flat greyish tones on the head and a dark plainer back with some scalloping on the feathers. I’ve only ever seen a loon in the summer so I’ll keep a watch out for them in the winter. Activity 4 Until recently, I only ever went to a lakeside park near my home during the summer. Double-crested Cormorants were plentiful all summer long. There are none there now and soon they will appear again for the breeding season. Killdeer will come only to breed and will leave in the fall. They were already in the park with I visited on March 17. 2022. The American Woodcock arrives in the spring to breed along with the Great Blue Heron. In my backyard I have Mourning Doves all year round. They sometimes disappear for a few weeks in the dead of winter then return again in March. Maybe they went on vacation. The field guide map says that the Carolina wren stays here all year round, but in my experience they only show up in the spring and summer to my backyard garden.
    • Activity #2 - Three species that're year-round residents in my area include the American Crow, Anna's Hummingbird, and California Scrub-Jay. I get the pleasure of seeing these birds daily since I provide sugar water to the hummingbirds and have become "the peanut lady" to the scrub jays and crows. Three species that only live in my area for part of the year include the Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, and Rufous Hummingbird. I always see these species when they pass through. Can't miss the goose's call and the sight of them, often flying low over our homes during migration. We have a major nearby river which I think makes a great stop-and-refuel area for them. The Dark-eyed Juncos always come to feed from my suet feeder during winter. Similarly, I can't miss the unmistakable sound of the Rufous Hummingbirds as they come to our hummingbird feeders as well. Activity #3 - The seasonal plumage changes for both the male American Goldfinches and Common Loons are striking! I noticed that the colors of the feathers and beaks for both species are vibrant and intense in the summer and are dull and faded in the winter. In addition, for the Common Loon, the iridescent green-blue band around the neck along with the clear, crisp black and white patterning seems to disappear too.
    • Jessica
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      One spot I’d love to see is painted bunting
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      activity 2: I live in the central valley of California (a great place for birding!).  Three species we have year-round are:  anna's hummingbird, black phoebe, and tree swallow.  Sometimes swallows are hard to tell apart, but if I see one in the winter, I know it's a tree swallow.  The others don't come until Spring.  I find it interesting that some birds are only in my area in the winter such as ruby-crowned kinglets and snow geese.  We have relatively mild winters (no snow or ice).  Other birds are only in my area in the summer such as western kingbirds.  They come here only for breeding.  It is very hot and dry here in the summer (over 100 degrees).  It seems like some birds like our mild winters, but not our hot summers, and other birds like our hot summers, but not our cool winters.  I guess it has to do with what they eat.  There are also birds we get only during Spring and Fall migration such as Wilson's warblers.  I have seen all of these before.  I look forward to seasonal bird changes!  There are some migrants that apparently come through our area, but I've never seen, so I keep looking!
    • Vivian
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      As a Florida resident, I am used to seeing Sandhill Cranes year around.  I was surprised to see how far north Sandhills migrate and Florida is special in that we have a year around population.
    • Jamie
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      1. The range maps ARE really neat. It is incredible to see how far some birds travel. Also interesting that in the case of some, like the Sandhill Crane, a subset stays put in Florida while the rest travel northward. 2. Our year-round residents: Kestrel, great horned owl, Anna's hummingbird. Right now we have robins visiting. I was surprised to see that Sandhill cranes sometimes come to my area. I have never seen one but will keep my eyes out now! The Golden Eagle is here most of the year but gone for short periods in July and August. I'm curious to know why. 3. skipping for now 4.  Common birds at my favorite birding spot right now are: Redwinged blackbird,  white-tailed kite, black phoebe. Summer birds include the Ash-throated flycatcher, cliff swallow, western kingbird.
    • Alicia
      Participant
      Chirps: 23
      Activity 1: These animated range maps are the coolest thing! It's fascinating to be able to see practically week by week over the course of a bird's year where they are, where they're most abundant and try to imagine how they're traveling and why they spend time in specific locations. I would imagine the Blackburnian Warbler's small, highly-concentrated wintering range is because they need a very specific habitat that's only in that area, or because this way they avoid competition with other related birds. It was interesting that the Scarlet Tanager looks like its wintering population shifts throughout the winter, unlike the Blackburnian Warbler that stays focused in one winter range. And I was surprised to see how concentrated the Ruby-throated Hummingbird population is in Missouri in May - the place to be to see them in spring. Activity 2: Three local migrant birds are the Common Swift, Lapwing and Reed Warbler. I guess the large areas showing no data on the animated range maps for some birds are because there are no eBird observations from those areas - such as for the Swifts crossing the Sahara. It's interesting how the Lapwing's migration is east to west, from eastern Europe and China to spend the winter in north-western Europe. I didn't realize how the entire world population of Reed Warblers is concentrated in west Africa for the winter, in Mauretania, Senegal, and Gambia. It was surprising too how in February some move to around Lake Victoria, to then move up through the Nile Valley to cross the eastern Mediterranean. Definitely a little brown bird with a big story... Activity 3: The Goldfinch male has bright yellow breeding plumage, which must be the brown tips of his non-breeding plumage wearing off by spring to show the brighter colors. The same must be true of the Common Loon, but I wondered how his white throat and breast feathers wear off to reveal the black underneath.
    • Alexandra
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: Northern Cardinal- The Northern Cardinal stays put-does not migrate. Stays in eastern US. Blackburnian Warbler - The Warbler starts in the very norther part of South America (Colombia/Venezuela) and migrates to the southern part of Canada/northern north America.   Scarlet Tanager- Northern south America to eastern north America Western Tanager- West coast of Mexico to western America; leaves later than other birds   Ruby-throated Hummingbird- Southwestern Mexico to the entire eastern half of the US Rufous Hummingbird- Western Mexico during the winter and Washington during summer   Sandhill Crane- Southern and midwestern US to northern US and Canada Yellow-bellied Flycatcher- Winter months in the southern peninsula of north America then during the summer northern Canada.   Activity 2: Year-round residents: American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco Seasonal residents: American Tree-Sparow (non-breeding months/winter), Evening Grosbeak, Gray Catbird I have seen all of these around our bird feeders.  The Grosbeak I have only seen once in my life. We mostly have Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.   Activity 3: Male American Goldfinches - Summer: Very bright yellow, black and white wings - Winter: mousy-brown color and lose their vibrancy, the wings maintain the same black and white pattern but are not as strong colored as they were in the summer. Common Loons  - Summer: black head, white neck band, checkered black and white back and wings, red eyes - Winter: dark grey with a white breast, belly and wing lining. Eyes darken to a deep reddish-brown   Activity 4: My favorite spot is our birdfeeder. We have a lot of species that show up during the year. In 6 months, I would expect to see Red-winged Blackbirds, possibly the Pileated Woodpecker couple that live near us, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Goldfinches, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (maybe Evening Grosbeaks too!). Year-round we have Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, a variety of Woodpeckers (Downy, Red-bellied, Hairy), Mourning Doves, and an array of Finches.