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Birding Through the Seasons - June

Late May through early July is the height of the nesting season and birds are very active. While many permanent residents started nesting in March or April, some of those species, such as the cardinal, will start second clutches during this time and others are rearing young. By the beginning of June, most passage migrants have departed and our summer residents are on nesting territories.

Among the birds still migrating in early to mid-June are Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied flycatchers, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, and Blackpoll Warblers. Stragglers of some species not known to breed in the state, such as Common Loons and Great Black-backed Gulls, continue here through the summer. By the last week in June migration almost ceases.

According to the 2 nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas project (2004-2009) 217 species resided in Pennsylvania during the breeding season and 189 of those were confirmed breeding. This makes June a lively time in Pennsylvania's woodlands and fields. Most of these species migrate from the new-world tropics (Central and South America) to North America. We refer to them as "neo-tropical migrants." They are with us for the brief nesting season, and they are abundant and busy during this period. That includes the 30 species of warblers nesting here, 18 ducks, 15 raptors, 11 sparrows, 9 flycatchers, 7 owls, 5 rails, and 5 vireos, among many, many others.

Backyard bird feeders also are great places to see birds and monitor activity. Whether watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds compete for nectar, or seeing woodpeckers line up for suet, or even seeing a Cooper's Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk ambush a songbird at a feeder location, it's all related to sustaining nestlings or fueling the stamina parents need to rear young. The energy needed to sustain life comes in many forms.

Pennsylvania truly is a birder's haven. We are fortunate to have large populations of signature forest birds such as Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Scarlet Tanager. On moonlit spring and summer nights, Penn's woods also can be a place to hear the call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will, once a more common natural sound of the countryside.

Dan Brauning
Pennsylvania Game Commission