May marks the return of many birds to or through Washington, making backyard and other nearby viewing a veritable showcase of color and song.
Everything from Canada geese to calliope hummingbirds is busy in some stage of courting, breeding, nesting, or rearing young – or is on its way to traditional spring and summer range even further north.
Those birds that remain in Washington year-round – like the chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches and other species regularly seen at backyard winter feeding stations – are also suddenly brighter in color and singing to establish breeding and nesting territories, going through mating rituals, and building new nests or remodeling old ones.
But it’s the “neo-tropical” species that winter in Central or South America that return or pass through now, triggered mostly by longer daylight hours, that especially catch our eye with exotic flashes of yellow, red, blue and other hues.
Warblers are some of the most noticeable and numerous — orange-crowned, yellow-rumped, black-throated gray, Townsend’s, yellow, MacGillivray’s, Wilson’s, and common yellowthroat.
Our many swallow species, several named for nesting preferences, grab attention with their aerial acrobatics – tree, violet-green, bank, cliff, northern rough-winged, barn, and purple martins.
And of course backyard birders who provide sugar water in feeders are delighting in the return of our hummingbirds – black-chinned, Anna’s, calliope, and rufous.
Other neotropicals are just as bright or melodious, including ruby-crowned kinglets, mountain and western bluebirds, Swainson’s, hermit and varied thrushes, western tanagers, black-headed grosbeaks, lazuli buntings, yellow-headed blackbirds, Bullock’s orioles, house wrens, Vaux’s and white-throated swifts, and chipping, Brewer’s, lark, fox, savannah, Lincoln’s, vesper, and white-crowned sparrows.
Celebrating this influx of species is International Migratory Bird Day (http://birdday.org/birdday ), always the second Saturday of May, with many events across Washington then or sometime this month, including:
- Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival, May 4-6 (http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/ )
- Tukwila Backyard Wildlife Festival, May 12 (http://www.backyardwildlifefair.org/ )
- Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge work party, May 12, and “Flowers, Floods and Feathers” festival, May 19 (http://www.fws.gov/turnbull/currentevents.html )
- Leavenworth Spring Bird Festival, May 17-20 (http://www.leavenworthspringbirdfest.com/ )