Now that Spring has finally arrived, we can all be happy to say a warm hello. Our area will still have snow and temperatures in the teens, but the birds are singing and brightening spirits.
Many folks think robins are the first to arrive in our area, but robins sometimes never leave. I have shown them bathing in the icy Niagara River in mid January. My post, Why Are Robins Still Here in Winter? is one people search asking the same question.
Who knows definitively why some robins migrate and others don’t, but usually it is based on available food. If robins are not reliable in ushering in spring, what other migrant can one use to predict the change of seasons?
The Black Birds are Back!
Really it is more about breeding and nesting times. Birds migrate to move from areas of lessening resources to areas of increasing resources. Resources are food and nesting locations. Birds migrating our way often follow insect populations and budding plants, but that happens further into spring. Birds might show up early to establish nesting territory. It all depends on individual species of birds.
Birds have no sense of the calendar, so it is based on instinct. But really science does not fully understand the mechanisms initiating migratory behavior. They are finding that weather plays a role in migration, but more in how the weather has been moderated or changed over the past fifty years. Arrival and departure dates are being extended and more and more birds like the robin are overwintering. Bluebirds are also more frequently seen in winter.
What is not always understood is why some birds of the same species migrate at different times. They will follow different migratory patterns too. One reason some birds migrate in differing waves of time is to ensure the species arrival will survive the weather. If birds alternate months of arrival, it guarantees some will find resources and a mate when they start to nest.
I showed swans early this year and generally the Tundra Swan is the first to arrive in February. I photographed them in our mild, early December. Eagles were more plentiful early in March, although some spend winters here.
So what are the true birds of actual spring? The bird in this post is the Red-winged Blackbird. Many consider it a bird telling us spring is here, but they arrive earlier on average (late February or first week of March) than the calendar week of Spring. Also, they can be here over winter since the range maps show them year-round in our area.
For my spring bird I just might choose the Common Grackle (Plus the not so common Leucistic Grackle). Grackles also can be found year round here, but I see more of them come spring. I know when I see the grackle, the calendar chimes Spring. They have been at the feeder the last few days so Spring it is.