Birding at The Woodlands: Breeding Season and the Promise of Migration

In the last episode of Birding at the Woodlands, we saw that breeding season was fast approaching. We can now see the offspring of the birds who were working so hard to build a nest and care for their babies! Though out of the nest, these fledglings  are not independent. You can often find them begging for food by chirping and fluttering their wings. Even though there are many older babies already out and about, there are many songbird families with younger birds still in the nest. Also, plenty of birds have more than one clutch (a group of eggs) each year, so there will be fledglings to see all summer! 

So, let's have a look at how to tell young songbirds from their parents, since seeing cute, fuzzy babies is one of the best parts of summer birding!

 Photo from Wikipedia Commons by M.L. Haen

Photo from Wikipedia Commons by M.L. Haen

There are two main ways to identify a young bird, such as the robin pictured above: the beak and the tail (remember it as the two extremities - beak and tail). Baby songbirds have soft, yellow flaps of skin in the corner of their beak, sometimes called "bird lips". Also, they have very stubby tails, as their feathers are still growing in. There are other ways to tell, like stubby wings and left-over fuzz, but the extremities are the easiest to spot. 

Summer is not the most popular time to go birding, likely because birds are in 'stealth mode' so that predators can't find their nests or babies. Additionally, birds have already paired up, so there is no need to sing for a mate. It also just seems like birds don't care for heat!

 Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a summer resident of The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, a summer resident of The Woodlands. Photo by Toribird.

Despite this, and in addition to seeing cute babies, migration is not far off! Shorebirds are one of the first migrant groups, beginning to travel around mid-August, but warblers, hawks, and others will soon follow. Migration is always an exiting part of the birding year, so definitely check out some local birding spots in the next month. While shorebirds are rarely seen from The Woodlands, due to our lack of, well, shore, they are easy to see on the mudflats of John Heinz, a wildlife refuge near the Philadelphia Airport. Also, the Woodlands is a great place for warblers, and you should be able to catch a migrating hawk or two as well. 


Written by Toribird