When I looked out of my bedroom window the other morning, I was delighted at what I saw: The first Baltimore Oriole I had seen all spring! The Baltimore Oriole, easily identified by its pointed beak, entirely black head and fiery orange plumage, is one of the many birds you may see migrating through Western Pennsylvania this time of year.
Spring migration is an exciting time for bird watchers. Beginning in late February and carrying through until early June, birds of all sizes and species begin to migrate and return to their breeding grounds for the Spring/Summer season. Migration patterns vary by species and even within species, but in North America generally we see a pattern of birds flying South to North.
Here are some other birds you can expect to see in your Pennsylvania yard this May:
The tufted titmouse is a common species that will frequent your backyard birdfeeder in search of sunflower seeds. You can identify a titmouse by its small, grey, stocky body, light peach sides, large dark eyes and pointed crest.
The American goldfinch is a small bird with a cone shaped beak and notched tail. Breeding males can be identified by their bright yellow feathers, black forehead and black wings with small white markings. If you want to attract a goldfinch to your feeder, try using sunflower seeds or nyjer seed.
The male rose-breasted grosbeak is a medium sized songbird with a large triangular bill and distinctive red breast. The red breast makes them hard to miss! You’ll find these birds feasting on feeders filled with sunflower and safflower seed.
The Ruby Throated Hummingbird
The ruby throated hummingbird is a tiny, buzzing bird with long wings and a long beak. Easily identified by its ruby throat and emerald green back. To attract hummingbirds to your feeder you will need to fill your hummingbird feeder with a mixture of sugar and water.
The American robin is especially common to our area. You can identify a robin by its rusty round belly, dark head/back and yellow bill. Robins do not eat birdseed, so if you want to attract them to your feeders you’ll want to use chopped apples, berries and mealworms.
Some Pennsylvania bird watchers have expressed an increase in the number of birds they’ve observed this year while others express concern over how upcoming polar weather events will effect migrations and populations. Cold weather events can cause a delay in the timing of bird migrations, this is known as uncorking. Cold weather can also cause birds to travel at lower altitudes making it more likely that they will fly into buildings and suffer untimely deaths. The cold can also make it difficult for birds that are forging for food since many birds feast on insects that are only abundant when temperatures are suitable.
Cold weather is not the only concern for migrating birds. As the planet warms at unprecedented rates, 1 in 8 species are facing extinction. Studies have shown that bird distributions in North America have shown long-term latitudinal changes in the past and will likely continue to see those changes in the future. While bird distributions will shift with the changes in precipitation and temperature vegetation will not. As a result, the amount of suitable habitat for each species will decrease, leaving these birds with nowhere to thrive.
So, next time you are listening to the sweet song of the chickadee, let it remind you not only that spring is here, but that it’s time to take action on climate change.