March Feeder Survey results & Spring arrival dates

BIRD COLUMN FOR April 4, 2004

By Ben P. Burtt

The Spring Migrants Due During The Next Two Weeks

The Results of the March Feeder Survey


This week, starting April 4, the wood duck and the sapsucker should arrive from the south. Those juncos that went further south for the winter will start to drift through to the north. Flickers will be poking about on our lawns for insects. The tree swallow is due now.

Next week, starting April 11, we should see the first towhees, bank swallows, barn swallows and perhaps even a purple martin or two. The field sparrow is due, but it generally stays in grassy fields where we hear it before we see it and it seldom comes to our feeders. The American bittern will be in the marshes ..


During the first week of March, readers tallied the birds seen at their feeder or visible from their home and sent in a list. From the summary of those reports we can see what birds are here and which ones are scarce or abundant this spring in upstate New York.

The birds at the typical feeder.

The number of species per report ranged from three for the 3rd grade class at the New Haven Elementary School to 36 for Ken Zoller at West Winfield. The average feeder had 17 species this time.

What birds were most often reported on the March Feeder Survey? Over 90% of the reports listed chickadees and mourning doves. Over 80% of the people listed downy woodpeckers, crows, cardinals, goldfinches and juncos.

About three-fourths of the observers had white-breasted nuthatches. A bit over 70% of the reports listed starlings and blue jays. In past years almost every feeder had a blue jay, but their numbers are down this spring and I don't know why.

Two-thirds of the observers listed red-winged blackbirds and Canada geese.
A bit over half the feeders had house sparrows, hairy woodpeckers, house finches, tree sparrows, grackles and robins.

CAPTION: The number of blue jays has been lower than normal this winter. In past years, the jay was reported by over 90% of those who watched their feeders. Only 78% reported it this February and now in early March it is down to 72%.( Photo, courtesy of The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY. To learn more about the Institute, visit its web site at )

Rare Birds
Some birds were reported by only one person. Matt Young spotted an immature golden eagle near Georgetown and a goshawk as well. Matt also had a flock of 57 evening grosbeaks. At Marcy, Doreen Hayes tallied the only kestrel.

At Hastings, Bill Purcell reported a woodcock and a horned owl. Linda Quackenbush has had a saw whet owl all winter. Paul Radway was the only person to list a white-crowned sparrow this time. At West Winfield, Ken Zoller tallied the only fox sparrow, horned lark and hooded merganser. Judith Fazio saw the only kingfisher in Syracuse.

The only brown creeper was reported by Gail Swistak of Cleveland. Four people listed chipping sparrows in early March and that bird does not normally show up until April. Were they tree sparrows whose breast spot was not visible? A field sparrow was reported at Baldwinsville and this bird rarely shows up before April.

Whether you send in a list or not, this feeder survey can answer many of your questions. The types of questions that are asked most often are:

Is it unusual to see this bird now?

Has anyone else seen one recently?

Here is an easy way you can get an answer to such questions. Print this column and you will have a complete list of the birds seen during the Feeder Survey for the first week of March.

Here is how it can be useful to you.

Suppose you have just heard a bird song that sounds like a killdeer. Is this too early? Have any of them arrived from the south?

To get the answer, look for the killdeer on the list below. There you will find: "killdeer 3 (2)". That means that of 100 reports sent in for the first week of March,, a total of 3 killdeer were tallied by 2 people. So very few killdeer had appeared by the first week in March.

If the killdeer had not been on the list, you would know that none had arrived by survey time.

Redpolls were still here in substantial numbers and past surveys show that they will be here for the April survey, but return north soon after that.

The March list.

Below is the list of all species reported. Print it post it on your refrigerator for a few weeks in case you want to know whether a particular species has arrived or whether very many are being seen.

The first number for a species on the list is the number of individual birds of that species on 100 reports. The second number is the actual number of reports that listed that bird.

Horned grebe 2 (1); great blue heron 7 (4); snow goose 3,614 (14); Canada goose 6,803 (62).

Ducks: wood 7 (2); black 5 (2); mallard 102 (18); ring-necked duck 8 (1); goldeneye 25 (2); bufflehead 5 (2); hooded merganser 1 (1); common merganser 30 (3); red-breasted merganser 1 (1) and turkey vulture 22 (9).

Hawks: golden eagle 1 (1); harrier 3 (3); sharp-shinned 10 (10); Cooper's 19 (19); goshawk 1 (1); red-tailed 30 (22); kestrel 1 (1); pheasant 7 (5); ruffed grouse 4 (4); turkey 228 (13); killdeer 3 (2); woodcock 2 (1).

Gulls: ring-billed 468 (19); herring 69 (9); black-backed 1 (1); rock dove 205 (22); mourning dove 600 (92).

Owls: horned 1 (1); saw-whet 1 (1); kingfisher 1 (1).

Woodpeckers: red-bellied 53 (37); downy 192 (89); hairy 88 (55); flicker 9 (8); pileated 10 (8); horned lark 2 (1); blue jay 235 (72); crow 528 (86); raven 11 (4).

Chickadee 418 (95); titmouse 89 (49); red-breasted nuthatch 48 (30); white-breasted nuthatch 131 (76); brown creeper 4 (2); Carolina wren 4 (3).

Bluebird 29 (1`3); robin 258 (52); mockingbird 2 (2); cedar waxwing 132 (4); starling 1,510 (71); cardinal 282 (84).

Sparrows: tree 389 (54); chipping 14 (4); field 1 (1); fox 1 (1); song 18 (14); white-throated 61 (20); white-crowned 1 (1); junco 428 (80).

Red-winged blackbird 1,502 (65); rusty blackbird 11 (2); grackle 970 (54); cowbird 112 (19); purple finch 9 (6); house finch 313 (55); redpoll 956 (31); hoary redpoll 4 (2); pine siskin 23 (6); goldfinch 1,090 (80); evening grosbeak 73 (3); house sparrow 640 (56).

Feeder survey starts
The April feeder survey starts today, April 4, and continues through Saturday. Please watch your feeder this week and send in a report.

For each species, report the largest number you see at any one time during the next seven days.

At the end of the week, send your list to Ben Burtt by regular mail or email. Use the appropriate address that is printed near the top of the home page.

If you would like to participate and have not done so before, you can read the complete directions by clicking on LIBRARY at the top left corner of this page and once there, select "Feeder Survey Directions