Spring Bird Arrival Dates


(This 1041st Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on March 6, 2011.)


It has been six years since I updated and revised the spring bird arrival dates for western New York and nearby Canada. I do so now because friends tell me that their old list, faithfully kept on a family bulletin board or by magnet on their refrigerator, has become illegible.


These dates are derived from the Buffalo Ornithological Society's very useful Seasonal Checklist of the Birds: The Niagara Frontier Region, a compilation by a society committee headed by Dave Suggs, who also mans the extremely useful "Dial-a-Bird" current information hotline at 896-1271. That checklist should be in the hands of everyone interested in birds; it provides much more information than this summary column. Copies may be obtained at the Beaver Meadow Nature Center, the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge and other nature centers as well as nature stores like Wild Birds Limited in Blasdell.


Here then are the dates at which new arrivals should become, according to that 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: wood duck, gadwall, Northern shoveler, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, white-winged scoter, horned grebe, 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: snow goose, ring-necked duck, hooded merganser, pied-billed grebe, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, turkey vulture, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper's hawk, common snipe, tree swallow, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet and song sparrow.


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


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, common moorhen, Caspian tern, common tern, belted kingfisher, red-headed woodpecker, bank swallow, red-breasted nuthatch, house wren, blue-gray gnatcatcher, hermit thrush, American pipit, yellow warbler, pine warbler, black-and-white warbler, Northern waterthrush, Louisiana waterthrush, fox sparrow, white-throated sparrow and purple finch.


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


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.


May 21-31: semi-palmated sandpiper, black-billed cuckoo, yellow-billed cuckoo, alder flycatcher, willow flycatcher and blackpoll warbler.


Here too are the dates at which overwintering 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, here are birds that may be found here all year long: Canada goose, mallard, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, bald eagle, 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, pileated woodpecker, blue jay, American crow, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina wren, Northern mockingbird, European starling, cedar waxwing, dark-eyed junco, Northern cardinal, house finch, American goldfinch and house sparrow.


Clearly not all of these 183 species are equally common nor are they to be found everywhere in this region, but every one of them is recorded here every year by someone somewhere.


Many local birders keep annual lists and those most active accumulate year lists of over 200 species. My own best was 259 in 1988, but with my declining skills and stamina I will be fortunate to make 100 this year. My current list stands at a puny 47, less then we usually count on January 1. But I will continue to participate in this personal contest and I urge you to take up the challenge.-- Gerry Rising