20 Captivating Spring Birds
As the chill of winter recedes and the landscape is tinged with the budding promise of spring, the skies above North America become a stage for one of nature's most enchanting performances. It's a time marked not just by the blooming of flowers and the greening of trees, but also by the return of a diverse array of feathered friends. Birds, those avian messengers of the seasons, begin their journey back to their breeding grounds, filling the air with song, color, and life.
If you've set up a bird feeder with a camera in your backyard, the types of birds you might capture depend on your location, the season, and the type of bird feeder and food you're using. Here are some common possibilities:
As the gentle warmth of spring begins to melt away the remnants of winter, the American Robin reappears, a true harbinger of the changing season. These robust, cheerful birds, with their iconic red breasts and bright eyes, are among the first to herald the arrival of spring. Their early morning song, a series of melodious notes, breaks the dawn's silence, filling our gardens with a sense of renewal and hope.
In the spring, these birds are also busy with the tasks of nest-building and raising young. Robins are not particularly shy and often build their nests in places easily observable by human admirers, such as in the crook of a tree branch or on window ledges. They primarily eat insects (like worms and beetles) and berries. Planting fruit-bearing shrubs and trees, such as holly, juniper, or dogwood, can provide a natural food source for them.
Welcoming the Purple Martin into your backyard heralds a deepening spring. These birds, with their stunning glossy blue-black plumage, are masters of aerial acrobatics, making the sky their stage with dynamic and elegant flight. Known for their communal living, Purple Martins add not just visual beauty but also a lively communal atmosphere to the environment.
Purple Martins have a strong preference for multi-compartment birdhouses, often called Martin condos. These should be set up in open areas and elevated, reflecting their natural nesting habits. Proximity to water can further enhance the attractiveness of your space to these birds.
The Barn Swallow's return is a quintessential sign of spring, bringing with it an essence of dynamism and grace. These birds, with their sleek, forked tails and iridescent blue-black feathers, paint a picturesque scene as they swoop and glide through the air. Known for their impressive flying skills, Barn Swallows are a joy to watch, especially as they perform aerial feats to catch insects on the wing. Their presence around barns and open fields is not just a delightful sight but also an indicator of the season's shift towards warmer days.
The Phoebe's arrival is like a quiet announcement of spring's promise, often going unnoticed but playing an integral role in the season's symphony. With its soft, dusky plumage and the endearing 'fee-bee' call, this flycatcher is a subtle, yet captivating presence in the awakening landscape. Cultivating an environment rich in insects is paramount, as Phoebes thrive on a diet of these small creatures. This means nurturing a garden where native plants flourish, creating a haven for insects, and thereby, a feasting ground for these birds. Avoiding pesticides will ensure a healthy, natural food supply.
The arrival of the Yellow Warbler is a vivid herald of spring, bringing a burst of gold to the fresh, green tableau of the season. This tiny, effervescent bird, reminiscent of a drop of sunshine, flits through the burgeoning foliage, its cheerful trills adding to the chorus of spring. With its striking yellow plumage, the warbler is not just a visual delight but also a symbol of the vibrancy and renewal that spring embodies.
Yellow Warblers are attracted to areas rich in insects, their primary food source. Additionally, these warblers are fond of fruit-bearing bushes and trees, which can provide both food and shelter. Providing a water source, like a birdbath, can also be an attractive element for these birds, as they frequently seek water for drinking and bathing.
Spring in your backyard takes on a magical quality with the arrival of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a tiny, energetic burst of color and life. Imagine the scene: a minuscule bird, no larger than a child's palm, darting with incredible agility, its wings a blur. The males flaunt their namesake ruby-red throats, shimmering like tiny gems against their emerald green backs, a living, breathing piece of natural art right outside your window.
Hummingbirds are drawn to nectar, so setting up a hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water (a mix of four parts water to one part white sugar, boiled and cooled) is like rolling out a welcome mat. Remember, no red dye is needed; just a red feeder will do the trick.
When the Tree Swallows swoop back into town, it's like nature's own airshow has kicked off right in your backyard. These sleek birds, dressed in shimmering blue and crisp white, are the daredevils of the spring sky. Watching them dart and dive with breathtaking agility, you can't help but be mesmerized by their aerial acrobatics as they chase after insects.
Tree Swallows have a thing for cozy homes, so setting up nesting boxes is like rolling out the red carpet for them. Place these boxes in open areas, maybe near a pond or a stream if you have one, as these birds love having water nearby.
The Red-winged Blackbird's return is like a bold brushstroke on the canvas of spring, bringing drama and vibrancy to the season's unfolding tableau. These birds, with their striking appearance — glossy black feathers set off by vivid red and yellow shoulder patches — are impossible to miss. Red-winged Blackbirds are particularly fond of open, marshy areas, so if your property includes a pond or is near a wetland, you're already off to a good start. They are attracted to feeders that offer grains and seeds, so filling your feeders with a mix that includes sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn can be quite appealing to them.
Spring's ensemble isn't complete without the Chipping Sparrow, the little bird with a big presence. These tiny guys, sporting stylish rufous caps like little feathered ball caps, bring a down-to-earth charm to your backyard.
They love a casual, laid-back setting – think open, grassy spaces with a few trees or shrubs for that perfect mix of dining and chilling. They're not fussy eaters, so a feeder stocked with their favorite snacks like sunflower seeds or millet will do the trick.
When the Rose-breasted Grosbeak makes its grand entrance in spring, it's like nature's own celebrity has walked the red carpet into your backyard. These birds are real show-stoppers: the males, with their snazzy black and white suits and flashy rose-pink ties (that's their breast patch!), and the females, elegant in their more subtle, streaked brown attire.
Rolling out the welcome mat for these feathered celebrities is pretty simple. They're big fans of sunflower seeds – think of these as the gourmet snacks of the bird world. So, a feeder stocked with these will surely catch their attention.
The Indigo Bunting, with its striking blue plumage, is a real head-turner in the springtime backyard scene. These small birds might not be as flashy or as big as some other backyard visitors, but what they lack in size, they more than makeup for in color. The males, in particular, are a vivid blue all over, a color so intense it almost seems like they're lit up from within. They're quite partial to seeds, so stocking your feeder with thistle or nyjer seeds can draw them in.
The Killdeer is a unique and fascinating addition to the springtime backyard. Unlike many other songbirds, the Killdeer is a type of plover, known for its distinctive 'kill-deer' call and its remarkable behavior. These birds, with their brown and white plumage and two black neckbands, might not be as colorful as some other spring visitors, but they more than make up for it with their dramatic antics. Killdeers are famous for their 'broken-wing act,' where they pretend to be injured to lure predators away from their nests.
Killdeers prefer open ground for foraging and nesting, often choosing gravel or short grass areas. If you have a part of your yard that’s less manicured or a gravel driveway, you might already have the perfect Killdeer habitat.
The Common Yellowthroat, with its playful 'bandit' mask and lively song, brings a touch of whimsy to the spring backyard. These small, sprightly warblers, often hidden away in thick underbrush, are like the secretive sprites of the bird world. The males, decked out in vibrant yellow throats and sporty black masks, dart in and out of dense foliage, adding a flash of color and a burst of their catchy "witchety-witchety-witchety" tune.
As spring unfurls its greenery, the Northern Mockingbird embarks on its nesting season, a natural spectacle in many backyards. These birds, known for their melodious songs, are equally skilled in nest construction. The sight of a Mockingbird busily collecting twigs, grasses, and even unconventional items like bits of plastic, is a charming indicator of the season's progress. They often choose visible locations like dense shrubs or tree branches to build their nests, weaving together their collected materials with care and precision.
The arrival of the American Goldfinch signals a bright chapter in the spring season. These birds, with their vibrant yellow plumage in the males and more subdued tones in the females, bring a splash of color to gardens and feeders. Known for their late nesting, Goldfinches wait for the abundance of seeds, particularly from thistles and coneflowers, that spring and summer bring. Their sweet, twittering song is a cheerful addition to the symphony of bird calls that fill the air during this time.
The Osprey's return each spring is a spectacular natural event, especially for those living near water bodies. These large, powerful raptors, easily identified by their brown and white plumage and piercing gaze, are a common sight circling above lakes, rivers, and coastlines. Renowned for their fishing skills, Ospreys provide a thrilling spectacle as they hover over water, then dive feet-first to catch fish with their sharp talons. Observing an Osprey successfully snatch a fish from the water is an unforgettable experience, showcasing the raw beauty and skill of these birds.
Great Blue Heron
Spring brings a special guest to the water's edge: the Great Blue Heron. Standing tall and statuesque, these birds are hard to miss with their long legs, sinuous necks, and striking blue-gray feathers. Springtime is a busy period for them; it's when they start their courtship rituals and nest-building. You'll often find them in large, communal nesting sites, or heronries, usually situated in trees close to rivers, lakes, or marshes. These locations are ideal for their fishing-centric diet.
These large, elegant birds, known for their tall stature and striking gray plumage, are often seen in open fields and wetlands. Spring is a particularly special time as it signifies their breeding season. Sandhill Cranes engage in elaborate dancing displays, a captivating courtship ritual that includes bowing, jumping, and wing flapping. These dances, combined with their loud, rattling calls, create a unique and memorable springtime spectacle.
Observing Sandhill Cranes during this time offers a glimpse into their rich social and mating behaviors. Their arrival in certain areas can also indicate the health and balance of local ecosystems, as they depend on specific habitats for nesting and feeding.