The month of May sees the peak of spring neotropical bird migration as they wing through Texas from Mexico, Central and South America, and head northward to various parts of North America. Their destinations are the summer breeding grounds of far North America, and as they travel the long distances, they rest and feed in trees and rejuvenate in water features, both. I was fortunate to observe some of the avian visitors in my back garden before I left Austin for a chunk of May, and once I returned, witnessed the tail-feather end of the songbird parade, replete with color and decorations, as they bathed briefly at the pond and flitted high in the trees.
Celebrating Wildlife Wednesday, here are the migratory birds of the past month, no longer in my garden, but hopefully safely raising families in their northern, summer homes. I’m not going to pretend that this month’s WW is anything but birds. The migratory birds are gone, but not forgotten!
female juvenile male American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla, eyes the pond, ready for a cooling dip.
I suspect that there were more Redstarts when I was gone, as they’ve been solid visitors, even into late May.
A male Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia, hops along the rocks which border the pond,
…then chills his toesies on the the wet rocks.
Several juvenile White-crowned Sparrows, Zonotrichia leucophrys, hung out near (you guessed it!), the pond.
Each would splash and flutter, then flit to nearby branches for drying.
Eventually, an adult White-crowned visited my backyard bird resort, though he/she preferred pecking at seeds on the back patio. I haven’t seen this bird in my garden before (that I’m aware of), I’ve only seen photos, but recognized it immediately.
A sunny afternoon highlights the coloring of this Russet-backed Swainson’s Thrush, Catharus ustulatus.
On another day and at the pond, a different bird, an Olive-backed Swainson’s Thrush contemplates a splash.
The frontal coloring is more aligned with its Russet relative. I think these birds have the sweetest faces.
There’s nothing common to me about the Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas, like this cute male.
The flash of yellow darting through the garden alerts me to visits from this little warbler. Usually, I’ve the females in past migration seasons and they’re a little blander, but still darling. Like the Redstarts, I’ll bet there were more of the Yellowthroats in my garden while I was gone. I’m sorry I missed them this spring, but I’ll have another chance in the fall.
Another new bird for me was a parade of Nashville Warblers, Oreothlypis ruficapilla. This isn’t a great shot (taken from indoors), but you can make out the reddish-brown cap, sported by males. There were quite a few of these tiny birds who found their way to my back garden.
Check out the polite line-up of Nashvilles as they troop to the public bath!
With their vivid fusion of blue, green, yellow, and red, male Painted Buntings seem to have flown straight out of a child’s coloring book.
So begins the description of (perhaps) the most beautiful of North American birds. I was fortunate to enjoy quite a few sightings of male Painted Buntings, Passerina ciris.
I also saw a female Painted Bunting, along with her seed-pecking buddy, a female Indigo Bunting, but they were just outside a window, through a screen and I didn’t have the camera handy. Their nibbling from my native plants (they were eating seeds of the Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala), affirms my garden choices. As well, I observed male Painted Bunting picking the tiny seeds from a Mexican feathergrass, Nassella tenuisima. I’ve always loved this plant,
… but have never witnessed a bird eating its seeds. Beauty, plus value for wildlife–that’s a garden win!
Unlike most of the birds profiled in this post who breed far north of Texas, the Painted Buntings and the Summer Tanagers, breed relatively close to Central Texas. Both visit my gardens, but only for brief periods. This female Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra, is an insect hunter and each late April and early May, I see them, perched above my honeybee hives, snatching bees on the wing (both the birds and the bees)!
This striking, but mottled fella is a juvenile male Summer Tanager. I didn’t see the scarlet male this year. Too bad, but I was thrilled to host mom and her son–except for the bee-eating thing!
The “black-throated” part of the name is visible, but you can’t see the green sheen on the back of this Black-throated Green Warbler, Setophaga virens.
It’s a bird I first saw last year and enjoyed only a brief glimpse of this spring. It migrates and breeds in eastern North America and Canada.
My winter-visiting Orange-crowned Warbler, Oreothlypis celata, left some time ago, but another passed through, probably having spent the winter somewhere further south of Austin.
The Orange-crowned Warblers aren’t the flashiest of warblers, but I’m charmed by their chirps and welcome their company during the winter. I was surprised at observing this one so late in the season.
And those are the birds of migratory May.
What wildlife happenings did you share in or observe this past month? Please post about your wild happenings and leave a link when you comment here. Happy wildlife gardening!