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The Backyard Birder, Issue March 2013
March 25, 2013

Bird Watching Forecast – Late March 2013

While North America is experiencing one of the earliest springs on record, we can expect that bird migrations will slow for the next couple of weeks as overall conditions will not be favorable for migration. Also, migrations may not be following traditional patterns due to the unstable climate. Stay sharp, you might see an unexpected guest in your backyard!

Forecast by Region


The West is experiencing relatively mild weather and should continue to see strong movements through the end of the month, provided conditions remain favorable. The best areas to spot large migrations are the Central Valley of California, Four Corners Region, Rockies, and Basin and Range region up to Canada.

One of the most welcome appearances is the songbird. Specifically, songbirds are expected to arrive in California at any moment. Of note, Hooded Orioles love palms and will be sharing their beautiful songs in residential areas with planted palms.

Swallows, of course, will show up in the Southwest and extend up along the West Coast these next couple of weeks. Inland areas may see a few swallows here and there, especially if there is inclement weather on the coasts or where there are lakes and wetlands.

Raptors should start to be spotted throughout California and New Mexico, possibly Colorado and Utah. Look for Cooper’s and Sharp – shinned Hawks to start showing themselves. Swainson’s Hawks are already appearing in California and New Mexico and are expected to grow in numbers and push north.

Great Plains

Overall, migrations in the Great Plains should be fairly light. This is due to the cooler weather and less favorable wind conditions. The unpredictable climate conditions mean unpredictable migrations, but overall expect to see movement in the Western Plains states, expanding to the east as the month progresses and the weather hopefully stabilizes.

Kinglets are expected to be on the move to the Great Plains this week. Look for the Ruby – crowned Kinglets in Oklahoma as well as Kansas but potentially as far north as South Dakota. Golden – crowned Kinglets wintered in the southern Great Plains this year and may be on the move as they make their way back to Canada.

Sparrows will also be moving in the next couple of weeks. Look for Vesper Sparrows to show up first in the southern Great Plains and move into Kansas and Colorado, potentially further north. Vespers often migrate in large numbers. So if you spot one, look a little harder because there should be many more nearby!

Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows, and Northern Rough – winged Swallows should start to show up in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Upper Midwest and Northeast

If kind weather conditions unexpectedly continue we will continue to see large migrations over the next coming weeks. At this point, it appears that the weather is going to change to less favorable conditions which will slow migrations.

Look for the Blue – gray Gnatcatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush to continue to push through even if the weather conditions are not favorable. Specifically, look for them to appear as far north as Maryland. Birdwatchers in New England, as well as the Great Lakes regions, should be on the lookout because the bird is expected to be early this year. Pay close attention near water lines and in warmer micro-climates.

Look for swallows, especially Tree Swallows in the north. They may conglomerate around ponds, especially when the weather is cold and rainy. Also be on the lookout for Barn Swallows, Purple Martin Swallows, and Northern Rough – winged Swallows.

Waterbirds such as the Double – crested Cormorant, Herons, and Egrets should be appearing in saltmarshes as far north as Maine. These birds will be looking for nesting areas and are expected to stake their claims early this year.

The Eastern Willets may make an appearance in the mid-Atlantic in late March. They winter in South America and will be looking for saltmarsh nesting grounds in late March to early April.

Gulf Coast and Southeast

Finicky semi-tropical birds will continue to migrate, although in fewer numbers, as weather patterns shift to less favorable conditions.

Fulvous Whistling – Ducks are expected to be a more common sighting throughout Texas and Louisiana, especially near coastlines. Most of the time this bird can be spotted flying offshore, occasionally ‘carpooling’ with flocks of Blue-winged Teal.

Wood warblers should be on the rise throughout the southeast. Look for the Northern Parula as well as the Black – and - White Warbler to show themselves in the near future, if they are not already in your backyard. Florida to the Carolinas should look for Prairie Warblers. The Gulf Coast may see the Worm – eating Warbler as well.

Texas, Louisiana, and the southern Great Plains may see Upland Sandpipers push through the next couple of weeks. Seek them out in grassy fields, sod farms, and listen for their unique bubbling call when they are flying or perched.

What Birds are You Watching?

We would love to hear from you about what wild birds you are seeing in your backyard and in your neighborhood. Migratory birds tend to follow patterns, but nothing is set in stone. Make sure that you have created an inviting environment with plenty of native foliage, water sources in a mix of sunny and shady areas for birds to linger. Have your books handy and take pictures if possible!

Don Rush sent me an email recently. He and his wife have co-authored three books about a group of birds; lifelong friends, who travel across America seeking adventure and making new friends. The titles are Robby's Quest for Seed, Robby's Quest: Ocean Bound and Robby's Quest: Return of the Cat. They are delightful stories, that I’m sure children would love. If you are interested in a copy here is their Amazon link. All the books are on sale right now. Paperbacks are $4.99 and eBooks are $1.99.

Hope you will subscribe to our blog. There are daily updates from folks sending in photos, needing help identifying the latest bird that have appeared in their back yard. It is help and be helped in our forums, as our readers identify the names of the unknown birds, and share their stories.

Happy Birding!


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