Spring arrival dates & April Feeder Survey results


By Benjamin P. Burtt

The Topics: The Time Schedule for the Spring Migration During the Next two Weeks

The Results of the April Feeder Survey

CAPTION: The wood thrush should arrive this week. This beautiful singer is brown with a rusty head and large spots on the breast. This painting is from the "Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America," fifth edition ( Courtesy of the Houghton Mifflin Co.,)

Incoming flights

It is time for the warblers to arrive. Also due this week are the least flycatcher, the great crested flycatcher and the kingbird.

The chimney swift and the catbird are due. The song of the wood thrush should be heard any day now. The white-crowned sparrow will start to pass through to the north. Also expected are the whip-poor-will, red-headed woodpecker and bobolink.

In about a week we expect the veery, Baltimore oriole, scarlet tanager, rose breasted grosbeak and hummingbird.

April Feeder Survey Results

During the first week of April 75 readers counted the birds visible at their feeder and in their yard. For comparison with results from earlier surveys, the numbers given in the discussion below are averaged as if exactly 100 reports came in.

The most abundant species at feeders and in yards were red-winged blackbirds and starlings. There were a bit over a 1000 of each. Next was the grackle, then the junco and cowbird. This is the time of the year when juncos that went south are moving back through this area to nest in southern Canada.

Birds at the typical feeder

Every feeder had mourning doves. Nearly all had chickadees, robins and juncos. About 85% of the reports included crow, cardinals, goldfinches, blue jays and starlings. Over two-thirds of the reports listed downy woodpeckers, red-wings, grackles and song sparrows.

Redpolls and tree sparrow were less abundant than in mid-winter for many have left for the north. The high counts of juncos and white-throated sparrows in April presumably were due to the northward movement of those that went further south.

The 5,395 goldfinches seen during the winter on the six surveys from November through April, was larger than in any winter since the feeder survey started 45 years ago. Normally, it is about 3000 each winter.

The winter tally of red-breasted nuthatches this winter was very high. It is large one year and small the next. They breed from Pennsylvania north to the limit of the trees. Those that breed in the very northern part of the range move southward in the winter and for that reason we see more in the winter than during the breeding season.

The winter numbers have been higher in alternate years since about 1989. Going back from this winter for example, the yearly totals were 343, 113, 349, 101, 353, 138 etc. Before 1989, the numbers were irregular and followed no pattern from one year to the next.

Strangely, the numbers of white-breasted nuthatches have gone up and down in the same way on the same years as have the red-breasted nuthatches.

Species reported by only one person

David Bigsby of Syracuse listed a broad-winged hawk. A loon and a goldeneye were tallied by Morgan Cooper in Spafford. The only great horned owl was heard by Dorothy Crumb of Jamesville. At Richland, James Lacelle spotted a hooded merganser.

A golden crowned kinglet and a Carolina Wren were spotted in Waterloo by Linda Quackenbush. Two snipe were seen in Cazenovia by Jeanne Ryan. She also reported that a neighbor, Polly Monz has had a Carolina wren all winter.
The only kingfisher was listed by Judy Thurber of Syracuse. Kathy and Scott Trefz of Perryville spotted a coot and a black-backed gull.

Nine double crested cormorants were sighted over a small pond near Matt Young's home south and east of DeRuyter. One early towhee was spotted at Cazenovia by Carol and Robert Standridge.

How many species were seen?

The average list had 20 species. The shortest list had two species and they were reported by Paul Keyson of Cato. Next were the eight species tallied by Helen Clark of Camillus and Linda Shuron of Solvay. Listing 10 species were David Bigsby of Syracuse, Charles Bruner of Brooktondale and G. R. Tegner of Marietta. Eleven were spotted by Matthew Broderick of Syracuse and Kathleen and David Zakri of Liverpool.

The longest list was once again turned in by Linda Quackenbush of Waterloo. She had 45! Matt Young and David Pardee tallied 40; Dorothy and Steve Hanzlik of Whitney Point listed 37 species.

Others long lists were36 from Kathy and Scott Trefz of Perryville.
34 from Lawrence Abrahamson of Marcellus.
33 from Jeanne Ryan of Cazenovia.
32 from Bill Purcell of Hastings
31 from James Lacelle of Richland and from Paul Radway of Pompey


Below is the list of all species reported. 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.

This list can be very useful to you. Suppose you identify a rusty blackbird in your yard. To find out if this is unusual at this time of year, find rusty blackbird in the list. There you see the numbers 9 (4) after the name. You conclude that Its pretty rare, since only 4 people spotted one!

Loon 1 (1); double-crested cormorant 9 (1); great blue heron 11 (9); turkey vulture 66 (30).

Geese and ducks: Snow goose 275 (2); Canada goose 672 (50);
wood duck 22 (6); black duck 2 (1); mallard 80 (27; goldeneye 1 (1); bufflehead 19 (3); hooded merganser 3 (1); common merganser 5 (2).

Hawks: northern harrier 6 (5); sharp-shinned 9 (8); Cooper's 9 (7); broad-winged 1 (1); red-tailed 38 (26); kestrel 10 (7).
Pheasant 3 (3); ruffed grouse 4 (3); turkey 123 (18); killdeer 11 (8); coot 5 (1); snipe 2 (1); woodcock 13 (5).

Gulls: ring-billed 678 (21); herring 120 (6); black-backed 5 (1); rock dove 118 (9); mourning dove 378 (100).
Horned owl 1 (1); kingfisher 1 (1).

Woodpeckers: red-headed 2 (1); red-bellied 56 (38); sapsucker 4 (4); downy 159 (74); hairy 81 (44); flicker 20 (18); pileated 13 (10).
Phoebe 29 (20); tree swallow 31 (9); blue jay 216 (78); crow 329 (84); raven 6 (2).

Chickadee 381 (95); titmouse 89 (50); red-breasted nuthatch 44 (26); white-breasted nuthatch 100 (62); brown creeper 9 (7); Carolina wren 1 (1); golden-crowned kinglet 4 (1).
Bluebird 38 (18); robin 447 (92); mockingbird 3 (3); cedar waxwing 145 (5); starling 1,025 (77).

Sparrows: tree 138 (47); chipping 10 (5); field 2 (2); fox 63 (27); song 198 (65); white-throated 95 (23); white-crowned 4 (4); junco 869 (89).
Cardinal 210 (84); red-winged blackbird 1,011 (74); meadowlark 36 (4); rusty blackbird 9 (4); grackle 920 (71); cowbird 600 (63); purple finch 38 (20); house finch 212 (63); redpoll 149 (23); siskin 50 (8); goldfinch 578 (83); evening grosbeak 23 (2); house sparrow 389 (54).

May Survey starts today

The last Feeder Survey of the season starts today and continues through Saturday. Record the largest number of each species you see at any one time during the week. Lots of reports are needed. Short lists are just as valuable as long ones.

At the end of the week, mail or e-mail the report to B.P. Burtt at the appropriate address on the home page.