Bird Migration Dates


(This 728th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on March 13, 2005.)


Three years ago I wrote a column listing estimated bird arrival dates for western New York and nearby Canada. Those dates were based on Clark Beardslee and Harold Mitchell's Birds of the Niagara Frontier and the Buffalo Ornithological Society's Date Guide.


Since then the Society has published a very useful Seasonal Checklist of the Birds: The Niagara Frontier Region. This inexpensive brochure should be in the hands of everyone interested in birds. Copies may be obtained at the Beaver Meadow Nature Center, the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and other nature centers as well as such nature stores as Wild Birds Limited in Blasdell.


In this column I revise my earlier listing to give you a picture of the spring migration here based on this newer listing. It does not simply duplicate that list, which is very useful for checking on individual birds; rather, I have grouped species by arrival dates. As you will see, the spring migration is already well underway.


Here then are the dates at which new arrivals should become, according to the Seasonal Checklist, "fairly common" in appropriate areas:


February 21-28: Tundra swan and Northern pintail.


March 1-10: American wigeon, American black duck and red-winged blackbird.


March 11-20: Horned grebe, wood duck, gadwall, Northern shoveler, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, white-winged scoter, Northern harrier, red-shouldered hawk, American coot, killdeer, American woodcock, Eastern bluebird, American robin, Eastern meadowlark, rusty blackbird, common grackle and brown-headed cowbird.


March 21-31: Pied-billed grebe, great blue heron, turkey vulture, snow goose, ring-necked duck, hooded merganser, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, common snipe, tree swallow, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet and song sparrow. Less common: Black-crowned night heron.


April 1-10: Common loon, blue-winged teal, ruddy duck, Eastern phoebe, winter wren and white-throated sparrow. Less common: American bittern and osprey.


April 11-20: Double-crested cormorant, broad-winged hawk, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, spotted sandpiper, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Northern flicker, purple martin, Northern rough-winged swallow, barn swallow, ruby-crowned kinglet, brown thrasher, yellow-rumped warbler, Eastern towhee, chipping sparrow, field sparrow, savannah sparrow and swamp sparrow.


April 21-31: Great egret, green heron, Caspian tern, common tern, belted kingfisher, bank swallow, red-breasted nuthatch, house wren, hermit thrush, American pipit, yellow warbler, black-and-white warbler, Northern waterthrush and white-throated sparrow. Less common: Common moorhen, red-headed woodpecker, blue-gray gnatcatcher, pine warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, fox sparrow and purple finch.


May 1-10: Chimney swift, ruby-throated hummingbird, least flycatcher, great-crested flycatcher, Eastern kingbird, warbling vireo, wood thrush, gray catbird, Nashville warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, magnolia warbler, black-throated blue warbler, black-throated green warbler, palm warbler, ovenbird, hooded warbler and Baltimore oriole. Less common: Virginia rail, sora, yellow-throated vireo, cliff swallow and cerulean warbler.


May 11-20: Least bittern, semi-palmated plover, whimbrel, sanderling, least sandpiper, dunlin, Eastern wood-pewee, blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, marsh wren, veery, Swainson's thrush, blue-winged warbler, Tennessee warbler, blackburnian warbler, bay-breasted warbler, American redstart, mourning warbler, common yellowthroat, Canada warbler, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunting and bobolink. Less common: Least bittern and Swainson's thrush.


May 21-31: Semi-palmated sandpiper, black-billed cuckoo, alder flycatcher and willow flycatcher. Less common: Yellow-billed cuckoo and blackpoll warbler.


During late winter and spring we also have overwintering species leaving. Here are the dates at which those species become uncommon:


March 10-20: Horned lark.


March 21-31: Canvasback, Northern shrike and snow bunting.


April 11-20: Redhead, rough-legged hawk and American tree sparrow.


April 21-30: Greater scaup, bufflehead, common goldeneye and common merganser.


May 11-20: Long-tailed duck and red-breasted merganser.


And finally, we have our permanent residents, those birds that may be found here all year long: Canada goose, mallard, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, wild turkey, Bonaparte's gull, ring-billed gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull, rock dove, mourning dove, Eastern screech owl, great horned owl, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, blue jay, American crow, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, European starling, cedar waxwing, dark-eyed junco, Northern cardinal, house finch, American goldfinch and house sparrow. Less common: Bald eagle, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker, Carolina wren and Northern mockingbird.


Clearly not all of the species I have listed are equally common nor are they to be found everywhere in this region. Waterfowl, for example, are generally restricted to our lakes and streams.


At this time of year there are only 64 fairly common species to look for here. With this list you can then train yourself to identify others as they arrive.


The total number of at least fairly common birds here is 160. I recall vividly the excitement I felt as a twelve year old when I first accumulated a year list of 100 species. I hope that by the end of the year many of you who have not yet done so will share with me that achievement and its attendant elation.-- Gerry Rising