Mar 20, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2019

The Best Backyard Bird Watching of the Year

Prairie warbler photo by Bill Thompson, III.
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Who doesn't love spring?

Flower buds are pushing up through the soil, birdsong is filling the air, trees are just starting to leaf out, and there's a promise of fair weather ahead—what's not to enjoy?

The "usual suspects" are still at our feeders, since their natural food sources are not yet as conveniently available as the free fare we provide. However, be sure to look beyond your bird banquet for even more joyful signs of spring. Warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, kinglets—birds that don't typically visit feeders—may be making an appearance in your yard, especially during migration.

Many birds that spend the winter in tropical locations migrate long distances at night, then use the daylight hours to refuel. If there are trees, berry-producing vines, or dense shrubbery in your yard, there are probably transient birds foraging there that you might never have seen at your feeders.

The trick to spotting these unexpected visitors is to listen for them. Turn off your cellphone/TV/radio, walk into your yard, and begin listening. Listen for unfamiliar sounds, those that are different from your feeder birds' usual noises—even just chirps and chips. Then try to track down the source of that sound, watching carefully for movement. Take your binoculars with you, but don't hold them up to your eyes until the sound and movement tell you exactly where to look.

Early spring is a great time for this practice, not only because birds are passing through as they head north, but also because the vegetation hasn't fully leafed out, so you'll be able to see deeper into the trees and brambles.

Don't give up! There's skill involved in hearing, spotting, and getting a good look at some of the shyer birds, but the payoff is so rewarding. There could be a hermit thrush or a yellow warbler in your oak tree right now!

Good luck, and best wishes for amazing yard birds this spring.

—The WBB Team





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  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021