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

    • wendy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 3: male goldfinches more colorful and darker yellow in summer and more subdued in winter. Common loons have checkerboard back in breeding season and bronzer back with less pattern in winter.
    • wendy
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: northern cardinal found commonly central to east coast vs blackburnian warbler which migrates to s America. Scarlet tanager breedsin eastern US vs western tanager which, like its name ranges from western US to Central America. Ruby throated hummingbird ranges from eastern US to Central America vs rufous hummingbird which ranges in eastern US to Central America.Sandhill cranesrange more through central US to Alaska Vs yellow bellied flycatcher which Is in eastern US and looks on the map that it migrates over the Gulf of Mexico to Central America.
    • Meg
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 3: I compared photos of the American Goldfinch in summer and winter, and the difference in color is remarkable. I am truly enjoying this course because I am new to the birding world, and I wasn't even aware that plumage color can change with the season (breeding/non-breeding).  I'm always happy when I learn something new!
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 2: Using Merlin’s “Likely Birds” feature and/or range maps in field guides, explore birds that are found in your area. Choose three species that are year-round residents, and three that only live in your area for part of the year. Have you seen any of them before? Share what you find in the discussion. Birds are listed in the same category in Merlin can have different ranges through the year.  For example, in our Midwestern location: -       The House Wren is here Apr-Nov, whereas the Carolina Wren can be found year-round, although in lower numbers. -       The Cardinal is present throughout the year in high numbers, while the Indigo Bunting, also in high numbers, is here only Apr - Oct. -       The Red-winged Blackbird can be found year-round, although much less commonly Dec-Feb, while the Baltimore Oriole is here mostly only in May-Sept. Both are present in high numbers when they are here. I have often seen Cardinals and Red-winged Blackbirds;  but do not believe I have ever seen an Indigo Bunting or Baltimore Oriole here, even though they are present in high numbers when they are here. I cannot confidently say that I have seen the particular types of wrens, because they are too fast for me to identify! Activity 3: Comparing birds in different plumages during different seasons: -       Male American Goldfinch:  In summer is bright yellow with a black cap and black wing and tail feathers with white edges.  In winter the bright yellow has faded and has a brownish-yellow appearance. -       Common Loon: In summer has complex and spectacular color pattern:  black head; black with larger distinctive white spots on body; and black and white stripes on neck to chest, interrupted by dark teal bands on the neck.   In winter the plumage has faded, mostly to soft gray feathers with some white edges or highlights, and a white chest and neck.
    • Yulia
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: I think the idea of this exercise was to notice migratory patterns. Resident (Northern Cardinal) vs migratory (Blackburnian Warbler) birds; east coast (Scarlet Tanager) vs west coast (Western Tanager) migration; same migratory pattern (Ruby-throated Hummingbird) vs clockwise migratory pattern (Rufous Hummingbird); migrations over the landmass (Sandhill Crane) vs migrations over the water mass (Yellow-bellied Flycatcher). Clockwise migratory pattern follows the ‘green wave’. Birds that fly over the water mass have to be well fed and strong to survive a long non-stop journey. I also enjoyed reading thorough migratory rout descriptions that other students have posted. Thank you for that! It helped me replay the migratory movements in my mind. Activity 2: Year-round residents: Oasis Hummingbird, Kelp Gull, Inca Tern. Can be seen only at a certain time of the year: Least Sandpiper, Tricolored Heron, Austral Negrito (haven’t seen this one yet). Activity 3: Male American Goldfinch: summer (Bright yellow color, black cap, red/orange beak); winter (Light-brown color, white belly, no black cap, gray beak). Common Loon: summer (Black-green head, distinctive white pattern on black wings, green neck ring); winter (Brown back side and white belly side, wing pattern is blurry, no green neck ring). In both bird species bright  summer colors and decorations (black cap or green neck ring) disappear in the winter, beak color changes from red to gray (Goldfinches) or from black to gray (Loons). Distinctive summer wing pattern gets blurry in Loons, but it doesn’t change in Goldfinches. Activity 4: I made a list of 45 bird species that I thought I would most likely observe at the river mouth by the beach. From this list I spotted only 24 species. My prediction, based on Merlin ID Chart Bars, is that I’ll be able to see most of the birds from the list in 6 months, except Chilean and Andean Flamingoes, Roseate Spoonbill and Puna Ibis that might be staying in the highlands at that time. But again, I saw only 24 out of 45 this time (I took a lot of pictures and videos to make sure I didn’t miss any bird species). My guess is that I might not see them all in 6 months.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      When it comes to my favorite birding spot, I have to say the first place that comes to mind is my own backyard. Pertaining to my backyard I covered a bit of this in Activity Number Two. Another favorite birding spots for me is St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. Actually I love it there and yet it is my nemesis because there are so many shore birds and at certain times of the year, ducks. I am still really working on the sandpipers, gulls, and ducks. They can be pretty difficult! The refuge does have multiple habitats so it does have a wide variety of birds there and some fantastic finds turn up there pretty regularly. I have even seen an American Flamingo there. The last time I went, a few weeks ago, I saw a lot of the standard wading birds like Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-color Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Little Green Herons, as well as, some standard marsh inhabitants like Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Double-breasted Cormorants, also all kinds of sandpipers and plovers. Since it is a combination of estuaries, river, and the Gulf of Mexico there is a pretty good variety of bird there at any time of the year. There are always Boat-tailed Grackles, Laughing Gulls, Mourning Doves, and Willets just to name a few. There is also a lot of great trails going through old growth forest with pine and oaks, as well and new pine growth. As far as year-round residents, there are lots of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, all of which I saw on my last visit. Right now you can expect to find Yellow-billed Cuckoos but they are not year-round residents. Six months from now we can expect to see a wide variety of ducks like Green-wing Teal, Norther Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, etc...
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity number three: I enjoyed looking at the pictures of the American Goldfinches and the Common Loons in their winter and summer plumages. I was already familiar with these birds different plumages but it is always nice to see. Both birds are so fantastic in their breeding (summer) plumage. I also enjoy them in their winter plumage but they are not as showy and spectacular.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      Activity Number Two: Looking at the Merlin app with it set on likey birds, the first bird that comes up is the Northern Cardinal. I do have them year round in my yard. Even though they are the most common birds in my yard I always enjoy seeing them. I love watching the pairs feed one another and really enjoy watching the juveniles growing and changing color as they mature. The second likely bird that is a year round resident is the Carolina Wren. They nest in my yard and even sometimes come in my house when I leave my sliding door open. One of them always comes and perches in my kitchen on top of my cabinets. I just love that he is comfortable fitting into the human world and coming in my house. I also love that such loud sounds come out of such a little bird. The third year round resident and likely bird is the Carolina Chickadee. These cute little birds are in my yard daily and I always enjoy hearing all their cute vocalizations. As far as part-time residents, every year I look forward to the arrival of the American Goldfinches. When they arrive they are mostly pretty drab but still very enjoyable little birds. By the time they leave the males look like flying lemons. Another part-time resident that came to mind is the Great Crested Flycatcher. While this bird does not have spectacular colors it is a very attractive bird. One of the things I like about it, is that it is so loud it evident when it arrives and it is quite easy to locate. The third part-time resident I am choosing to write about is the Mississippi Kite. When they are here I see them every day flying over my backyard and at various places all over town. I love watching them flying up in the sky and randomly diving down as if they are going to catch some prey and then just swooping back up. They seem like they really love the wind and flying. They appear as if they are having a great time up there! I always love a raptor and this one is really attractive.
    • Juli
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      I just watched the range maps for the Northern Cardinal and the Blackburnian Warbler. I saw that the Northern Cardinal's abundance fluctuated and moved around the edges and concentrated a bit at times in it's usual range (which includes where I live in Florida) but did not really migrate. It's non-breeding, pre-breeding, breeding, and post-breeding areas are all pretty much the same with no migration. The Blackburnian Warbler's range changed drastically as it went through parts of the United States and up to Canada and then back through slightly different areas of the United States and into Central and South America. The Blackburnian Warbler shares some of it's pre and post-breeding time in it's non-breeding and breeding areas. It migrates significantly. The Scarlet Tanager goes from South America up through Central America and into the Northeast portion of the United States and on up into the NE portion of Canada and then right back where it had come from. The Scarlet Tanagers pre and post-breeding time shares area with both the non-breeding and breeding locations, with a lot of overlap with the breeding location in particular. The Western Tanger goes from Central America into the Western portion of the United States and up into the Western side of Canada. The Western Tanagers pre and post-breeding time also shares area with both the non-breeding and breeding locations, with a little less overlap with the breeding location than the Scarlet Tanager. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds goes from Central America (non-breeding time) up through the Northeast portion of the United States and the NE portion of Canada and then back through the same areas and back where they came from. It's breeding, pre-breeding, post-breeding areas are all the same areas with varying abundance. The Rufous Hummingbird goes from Central America (non-breeding) up the far Western portion of the United States close to the coast (pre-breeding), and up into the Western portion of the Canada (breeding). On it's way back down to Central America it still goes through the Western United States but covers a much larger portion of the United States(post-breeding), further East but still in the West, and then back into Central America. These two birds are polar opposites in the areas (East and West) and they have fairly different patterns as far as their pre and post-breeding in that the Rufous Hummingbird is only traveling during that time and goes to it's breeding area but the Ruby-throated Hummingbird shares that same area with it's breeding area. The Sandhill Crane goes just barely into Central America and concentrates in Texas and Florida during in their non-breeding season. They they travel up through the middle of the United States during the pre-breeding time and then up into the Northern most parts of Canada during their breeding season. There also are a good abundance or breeding Sandhill Cranes in Central and South Florida. They they return pretty much the way they came. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher's non-breeding location is Central America. It's pre and post breeding areas are pretty much the same areas of the Northeastern United States. They Yellow-bellied Flycatcher's breeding area is primarily the lower Eastern portion of Canada. These two birds have a lot of similarities to their migration patterns. It is really interesting to see the varying patterns and different ways that birds manage their travels. I really enjoyed using this portion of the site that I had never used before.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      My favorite birding spot is home in California. Right now we are seeing a lot of House Fiches, Oak Titmouse, Mourning Dove, Turkey Vulture, Spotted Towhee, Dark-eyed Junco, Anna’s Hummingbird, American Crow, California Towhee, Red-shouldered Hawk, Bushtit, Raven, Western Bluebird, Song Sparrow, California Quail, Lesser Goldfinch to name some frequent visitors. I used a combination of EBird local checklists by date, Merlin likely birds and the Audubon ap to determine what birds I might see in January that are not visiting now. It seems I could begin watching for these birds later in the fall. Fox Sparrow, not on Merlin likely bird list, but Audubon shows this bird common here in the winter. The Golden -crowned Sparrow is a yearly winter visitor. Yellow-rumpled Warbler, considered rare but possible by Merlin. More likely in the winter than now. Townsend’s Warbler is also considered rare but is on the Merlin likely bird list. More likely to see in January than now. Ruby Crowned Kinglet should be visible in the winter. Say’s Phoebe are more scarce now but more likely in winter. I thought I saw one early spring so it will be nice to watch for this bird again.
    • Lydia
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: Ruby-throated hummingbirds and Rufous hummingbirds: What stands out to me about these hummingbirds is that the Ruby-throated is located in the East side of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and the Rufous are located in the West. For the Rufous, they travel north just on the very West of the United States by California, Oregon, and Washington, but on their way South, they go practically as far East as Nebraska. Activity 3: American Goldfinch: In the summer, the male American Goldfinch has bright yellow plumage with a black cap, black wings, and white wing bars. In the winter, the bird is pale yellow or tan with no black cap.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity 2. I Made a list of likely birds that I had not yet observed and a list of likely visitors. Studying the photos, sounds and behaviors of unobserved likely birds made it very easy to spot them. They had been there all along but just out of my awareness. Some of these birds include the Bewick’s Wren, White-Breasted Nuthatch and the Wrentit. Some recently observed visitors are the Hooded Oriole and the Black-headed Grosbeak.
    • Lesley
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 2: I live on Vancouver Island, BC, where the climate is mild for most year, so many birds are here year-round. For comparison's sake, I chose the Anna's Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird, both of which are at my feeder these days, but I won't expect to see the Rufous in the winter, although the Anna's will come to the feeder all year (and I make sure to keep the nectar from freezing on cold nights.) Black-headed Grosbeak made an appearance in May/June but I won't expect them in colder months, whereas the American Goldfinch could turn up anytime. I saw some Common Nighthawks flying one evening, but they stay around a short time here, but our Barred Owls and Bald Eagles are always around. Activity 4: It's August, so I would expect to see gulls, Black Oystercatchers, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, and Cormorants in my favorite shoreline birding spots, and they'll there all year, but in six months from now, I would hope to see Mergansers, Buffleheads, and maybe Surf Scoters, and in late February, into March and early April, thousands of Brant Geese will stop for fuel on their way north, which is a very exciting event.
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 2: Birds that do and do not migrate in my area.
      • I live in the Western Cape in South Africa, there are not many birds that migrate that live in my area. I have researched most of the birds and they are all mostly endemic to South Africa namely:
      • Malachite sunbird
      • Cape Batis
      • Cape Bulbul
      • Olive Woodpecker.
      • Some birds that migrate to South Africa:
      • Greater striped swallow is the only bird that visits our area and has built a nest against our house in previous years. It breeds in South Africa, it is migratory wintering further north in Angola & Tanzania220px-Greater_Striped_Swallows_(Cecropis_cucullata),_left_one_calling_..._(46169513572),_crop
      • White stork
      • Yellow-billed kite
      • European bee-eater
      • Lesser Kestrel
    • Jamies
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Activity 2: Year- round residents:Black-capped Chickadees, Black-billed Magpies and House Sparrow. Non Year-round residents: Yellow Warbler, Sora, and Blue-Winged Teal. I have not seen Blue-Winged Teal and Sora at William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, Canada before. I would like to know when special birds appear.
    • Tricia
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Activity 2: Some of the birds that Merlin says are likely in my locality, but I have not yet seen: Year Round Residents - Olive Backed Oriole, Spotted Pardalote, Red Browed Firetail Seasonal Visitors - Spangled Drongo, Little Friarbird, Yellow Tufted Honeyeater
    • Meghan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 3: The winter colors seem to be more subdued. Now I realize why the mallards always seem so flamboyant in the spring time when I typically can't remember them that way during other times of the year.
    • Meghan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 2: The year round residents in my area (Anchorage, Alaska), include the black-billed magpie, mallard and blackcapped chickadee, all of which I've seen. I also now understand that the dark-eyed junco is year round, so I will keep a look out in the winter for this charmer. Seasonal birds include the mew gull, arctic tern and red necked grebe, all of which I've seen. One pattern I notice is that the year round birds I see closer to my house and the season ones I see live in the lagoon/wetland a few blocks away. This lesson has been a good reflection on how the birds let me know what time of year it is, from the return of the gulls in the spring, the impending solstice and the early morning and late night song birds til the beginning of the Canada goose migration at of summer.
    • Kimberly
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Right now, July, I see a variety of birds; Carolina Wren, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Blue Birds, American Gold Finch, Wood Thrush, Red Winged Black birds, Yellow Billed Cuckoos, Scarlet Tanagers and more. Six months from now I expect the blue birds, tanagers, cuckoos, wood thrush and maybe the blue jays will have migrated away. The Carolina Wrens and cardinals will stay all winter. We will also have an influx of migratory geese and many ducks in the next few months. I am wondering if the red winged black birds will migrate or stay?   In comparing summer and winter birds, I have mainly noticed that summer colors are vibrant and bright and winter colors have more brown. The brown is certainly good for blending in.
    • Bill
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      activity 1 Always to learn more about eBird.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      My favorite birding place so far is Leslie Science and nature Center. So far I've seen a family oof Flickers there, as well as heard either a red-tailed hawk or a red-shouldered hawk. I thought it was a red-shouldered hawk. Anyway- I expect to find woodpeckers and hawks there regularly. There is also some kind of swallow in abundance, which may be a tree swallow. and may be purple martins. I do not expect to find purple martins, as they are a migratory bird. Flickers do move around, but they also live in Michigan throughout the year, so I would expect them to overwinter here. Red-tailed hawks also stay the winter- they expand their range during the breeding season, but there is always a population of them that remain here. Northern harriers have been sighted there. They are an interesting bird- they do migrate a bit, but a population remains in Michigan year round. There are fewer of them here in the summer, as some fly north to Canada.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Exercise #3 The American Gold Finch is a bright, bright yellow with black wings, a white rump, and white wing bars. It has a black cap in summer and a pale orange beak. In winter its plumage has much less yellow, although the face is still quite yellow, and in winter it no longer has a black cap. Instead it has much more white and tan colors, although it still has its black wings. The Common Loon is extremely striking, with a black head and black beak and red eye, and a black and white neck band and green neck band, and a black and white body and black and white stripes on its chest. It is also much more drab in winter. Its beak changes to a lighter color! It becomes a two-toned beak. And it loses its neck bands. Overall it becomes a two toned duck, with white on the underside and front of neck and face, and a light brown on its back and top of head and back of neck. Its eye is still the same red.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      So there are Merlins, Mute Swans, and Hairy Woodpeckers year round in southeast Michigan, and I have seen all three. There is a group in town called 'Swan Friends" and they follow the breeding of all of the swans in the area, and I have seen them while driving by various lakes. There are Merlins year round, but the only one that I have seen, to my knowledge at any rate, is in captivity at the Leslie Science and Nature Center. I saw three hawks soaring above the University Hospital today and was unable to identify them. Hawks of all kinds are a common sight in this area. And of course, hairy Woodpeckers live here year round, and I have seen them at the bird feeder or in trees. The Acadia Flycatcher is here from late April until September or October, and I don't think that I have ever seen one. The American Redstart is also here from late April through September, as is the American Woodcock. I haven't seen any of these.
    • rita
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      I really enjoyed this exercise, although I ended up with quite a lot of notes, and I still don't think that I understand the maps, For instance, for both the rufous hummingbird and the western tanager- according to the range maps both birds are found coast to coast, but according to the migration animation maps, they never are seen in Michigan, which is where I live. I realize the animation map shows the highest concentrations of them and not the total population. The Northern Cardinal doesn't migrate much at all, and can be found year round in Michigan and throughout its range, which covers most of the United States, the lower half of Canada, and Central America. The Blackburnian Warbler, by contrast, travels from Mexico to the bottom half of Canada in migration, spending the winters in the warmer climate of Central America and the summers up north. The Scarlet Tanager and the Western Tanager are both migrating birds, but the Scarlet Tanager migrates from the upper coast of South America and the Western Tanager from Central America. There is a bigger concentration of Scarlet Tangier's in the southern U'S during breeding season- the Western Tanger flies all the way up to Canada. Both the Rufous Hummingbird and the Ruby -throated hummingbird fly north from Central America- the range and concentration map shows that most of the rufous hummingbirds fly along the west coast into Canada, while the ruby-throated hummingbird migrates into the United States and Canada for the breeding season and back down to Central America for the winter. Sandhull crane vs. yellow-bellied flycatcher The Sandhill Crane is the most interesting so far- It is spread all over, and its migration is incomplete, in that some Sandhill Cranes stay down in Florida while most fly north as far north as the arctic and Alaska. But climate can’t be the driving factor in their migration if some of them stay in Florida for the summer. The Yellow-bellied flycatcher flies from Central American to Canada and back down again. Overall it has a very wide range as well, although not as wide a range as the Sandhill Crane.
      • Meghan
        Participant
        Chirps: 7
        Great summary. I also enjoyed comparing the two birds to make inferences about what drives the migration and how large natural features acted as boundaries and edges, e.g. the Rockies, great, lakes, major water sheds....
    • Eva
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 3: - Male American Goldfinches: during the summer, the male American Goldfinch is bright yellow with black and white tail feathers and wings, a black crown, a bright orange beak, and a white rump. In the winter, however, the male American Goldfinch changes several things: its head is a duller yellow, its back turns into a light brown, its chest and belly become a very light brownish-yellow color that looks almost white, and its beak becomes a duller orange with some black surrounding it. Also, there seemed to be a dull gray stripe around its neck that wasn't there during the summer. What always stays the same is its white rump and black and white striped wings. - Common Loons in summer and winter: during the summer, the Common Loon has a black head which turns into a dark metallic green along the neck, which also has a line of white dots right at the top, and further down there is a line of white vertical stripes. The wings, back, and belly - it was sitting on the water at that moment, so I'm not so sure about the belly - are black with white dots that get smaller at the back of the bird. The biggest dots are squarish. The Common Loon also has a red eye and a long thick grayish beak.  The Common Loon in winter is different in almost every way. The wings, back, crown, and back of the neck are all a grayish-brown, and the rest of the body (the belly - also underwater at that moment -, and the neck) is white. The only thing that stays the same is the thick, long, grayish beak and the red eye.