Photo by Corey Husic

Monday, October 31, 2011

Late Fall Birds

As Dan Kunkle mentioned in his previous post, fall bird phenology can be difficult, as it is often difficult to determine when a bird species leaves. Although this may be difficult, the best way to determine a "last date" is by regularly birding the same area to get a day-by-day analysis of which species are still around and which species are gone. While many birds are leaving, there are also several species that are still appearing or will appear very shortly. For example, several of the winter sparrow species are just beginning to arrive. Many observers spotted their first Dark-eyed Juncos for the season this past week. Fox Sparrows have also started to show up around the state. This large sparrow often overwinters, but regularly migrates through during the month of November (and then again in March). American Tree Sparrows, which are also winter visitors, should also be arriving in Pennsylvania in the next few weeks.

Fox Sparrow

At this point in the season, most of the warbler species have left the region. Even most of the late-season species including Palm and Tennessee left earlier in October. The only warblers that are still around are the Yellow-rumped Warblers. This species is extremely common this time of year and can be found near almost any woodland edge habitat.

Yellow-rumped Warbler with Poison Ivy berries
November is also the season to find migrating flocks of blackbirds. The common species, Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle, can be found in tremendous numbers, but November is also the best month to find the rarer Rusty Blackbird, a declining species who's boreal habitat is very sensitive to changes in the climate. If you come across a blackbird flock, be sure to double check for any different birds, as blackbirds tend to mix together this time of year.

mixed blackbird flock

Raptors are also on the move. Although the hawk flight tends to be slower in November than earlier in the season, it is the time when Red-tailed Hawks really start migrating and species like Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks begin to pass through. Keep an eye out for any migrating raptors, as these are important signs of late fall.

migrating Red-tailed Hawk

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