Have you ever noticed that the numbers and kinds of birds in your yard increase significantly in September and October then again in March and April? Or maybe you saw a strange looking bird in a field, mudflat or flying overhead while driving? Migratory birds generally move north in Spring and back south in the Fall, specifically in September and October, tapering off in November and December and in Spring in March and April tapering off in May. There are no hard and fast rules to migration; different species each have different migration routes and schedules and birds don’t read guidebooks! Some bird species arrive in Fall and stay in the area through Winter and leave in spring, for example some ducks can be found in our ponds all winter (Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Ring-necked, and Northern Pintail, etc) but they disappear in spring. Some warblers, like the “Yellow Rumped Warbler” arrives in October and is ever present in large numbers in our yards finally leaving in early May. Many bird species fly over Leon County without stopping. On any given fall migration night there are tens of thousands of birds flying over us making their way south. Some will stop and stay. Some will stop for a short break and move on. And, if you are lucky, maybe you may see a rarity!
Warblers are perhaps the most popular bird family people want to see during migration. Perhaps its because they are so colorful or that they can often be seen in your own yard after dropping out of the sky from flying all night. When they first arrive, they may be hungry and thirsty. Be aware most warblers don’t come to seed bird feeders. Put suet cakes out and make sure your water features and bird baths are full. Also plant bird friendly plants which produce berries and fruits or function as host plants for insects that warblers like to eat. Pictured on this page are some common warblers you are likely to see in your yard during migration in Betton Hills – all of these pictures were taken in either Leon or Wakulla County – and a few are from Betton Hills.
Many birds form feeding guilds, basically a group of chattering birds of different species that group together for safety while feeding. Everyone knows the Chickadee call, “chickadee-dee-dee”! So next time you are in your yard, or McCord Park or Harriman Circle, and you hear “Chickadee-dee-dee” look for them because you might just see a warbler hanging out with the chickadees.
Remember this tip for finding fall warblers: “Where the Chickadees call, look for warblers in Fall!”
Cornell university has a great online tools and phone apps for anything and everything birds. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, I highly recommend you check these out. These tools are free and by using ebird to list your bird sightings, you will help the The Cornell Lab with their work studying bird populations and movements.
- McCord Park Bar Chart (lists birds by month present): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L838752
- Harriman Circle Park Chart (lists birds by month present): https://ebird.org/hotspot/L6311845
- Leon County Bar Chart (lists birds by month present) https://ebird.org/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2022&bmo=1&emo=12&r=US-FL-073
- All About Birds (Cornell Bird Guide): https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/
- Create eBird Bird Listing account (app and web): https://ebird.org/home
- Merlin Bird Identification (Bird call ID and photo upload ID): https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/
- Bird Migration Daily Forecasts – shows pictures of expected birds nightly: https://birdcast.info/