Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Birding By Ear: Late Winter and Spring Edition

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Birdwatching, particularly the auditory aspect, is a popular pastime year round for those with vision loss. As we approach the spring season, here is a brief summary of what to expect in the North American bird world for the next few months. Going into March, it is duck season. Not for hunting, but for migration back north to their nesting grounds. Making trips to places where many species of ducks congregate along with geese, gulls, eagles, and other winter birds can be a rewarding experience. Besides being generally vocal, male ducks put on elaborate courtship displays to attract the females, complete with calls distinctive to each species. This is also the time when songbirds, which have spent the winter mostly silent, lift up their voices. You can expect robins, cardinals, sparrows, finches, chickadees, woodpeckers, and others to be serenading you in the mornings especially. The migrating songbirds, including sparrows, finches and blackbirds, are also appealing. The real glut of songbird migrants, however, streams through from mid-April in the south to late May in the north. Easily overlooked unless you know they are coming, the most notable of these are more than 50 species of small, colorful, vocal birds called warblers. Turning up even in small pockets of woods, each species has its own specific songs, and you never know from one day to another what might land in your yard or park. Other migrants at this time include swallows, flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, and grosbeaks. From June on, the singing drops off dramatically, and you start to hear the persistent begging calls of young birds eager to be fed by their parents. Once these become less noticeable, we circle back again to fall migration. All About Birds includes sounds for all our common birds. For those looking to learn songs in a more systematic way, however, two of the best resources, available for purchase, are the Peterson Birding By Ear series of CDs and the Larkwire song-learning game.