Birding by Season Summer Longtail

White-tailed Tropicbird (Longtail)

Summer is the quietest season in terms of the variety of bird species. Resident birds like the Eastern Bluebird are busy breeding, perhaps on their second or third brood, and the visiting White-tailed Tropicbirds (Longtails) are much in evidence along the coast.

A few late migrants like the Barn Swallow and Chimney Swifts may still be passing through, while others (probably non-breeding birds) may even spend the summer here – especially the herons and egrets. There are always surprises – perhaps a Brown Pelican or Magnificent Frigatebird. Check even the smallest pond and you will find the occasional shorebird – probably a Yellowlegs – but perhaps something as graceful and stunning as the Black-necked Stilt.

Birding by Season Summer Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

The most spectacular bird phenomenon of May and much of June is the seabird movement. Thousands of pelagic birds (those species that spend most of the year out on the open ocean) migrate northwards. Given the right weather conditions and a good pair of binoculars (better still a telescope) they can be viewed from south shore. East or south-easterly winds push these birds closer to the shore – so find a comfortable spot such as Watch Hill Park or Devonshire Bay and be ready for action! Four species of shearwater can be seen – Greater, Cory’s, Sooty and Manx. With practice it is possible to distinguish between these bird species as they shear with stiff wings over the tops of waves beyond the reef line. In a single day it is possible to witness nearly a thousand shearwaters, the vast majority being Great Shearwater. Interestingly, the Manx and Cory’s are heading north-east to breed on the north-west Atlantic coast and Mediterranean region respectively, while the Great and Sooty have already bred on islands in the South Atlantic.    

Also part of the pelagic migration, but in smaller numbers, are three species of Jaeger – Long-tailed, Parasitic and Pomarine – and the South Polar Skua.  These birds harass other seabirds, such as the Longtail, to disgorge their food. They also chase the Arctic Tern – the real long distance migrant. It is a thrill to see them passing Bermuda on a 10,000 mile journey from latitudes of the Antarctic to those of the Arctic.

By late July a southward migration is already beginning with shorebirds arriving in Bermuda.

Material adapted from "A Birdwatching Guide to Bermuda" by Andrew Dobson, Arlequin Press 2002. 

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Photos courtesy of Andrew Dobson, Paul Watson, Chris Burville, Ras Mykkal, Jennifer Gray, Rosalind Wingate, Rick Slaughter and others.

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