Birding by Season Spring Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Bermuda’s spring migration is certainly not as dramatic as the fall migration. In the fall we can witness thousands of birds travelling south but most in rather dull non-breeding plumage or drab coloured juveniles. During the spring months, birders have to search out migrants travelling north from Central and South America to North America, but the reward is brightly coloured birds in breeding plumage: Blue Grosbeaks, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Scarlet Tanagers - all as colourful as their name suggests.

Birding by Season Spring Rose breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The nature of weather systems and the fact that the more experienced adult birds are travelling north tends to deny us the beautifully plumaged warbler species found on the continent – but when the odd one does arrive, it provides a real treat and may even give us a burst of song too – perhaps a Prothonotary Warbler or Bay-breasted Warbler. There is always the chance of a real rarity, like a Swallow-tailed Kite.

Birding by Season Spring Swallow tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Only three species of birds visit Bermuda to breed – the CahowWhite-tailed Tropicbird (‘Longtail’) and Common Tern. Some Cahows are already feeding young when the first Longtail returns as early as mid-February.

Manx Shearwaters carry out a lengthy journey from the South Atlantic to the North Atlantic. Never seen over Bermuda, these birds can only be seen with eyes straining through binoculars scanning the horizon from the south shore. To the uninitiated, scanning the ocean for hours with binoculars or telescope might seem a colossal waste of time – but to experience the great pelagic migration is a great thrill. Four species of shearwater, plus jaegers, terns and storm-petrels all pass Bermuda during long sea journeys. Flying fish appear frequently in the field of view and there is always the real chance of humpback whales.

In March and April there is a good chance of seeing swallows – Barn, Tree, Bank and Cliff, and Purple Martins – hawking for insects over ponds or above dairy farms. Resident birds are re-claiming territories and are also in good voice, such as the Northern Cardinal (‘Redbird’), Grey Catbird and White-eyed Vireo (‘Chick-of-the-village’). By mid-April most of our wintering birds, including grebes, herons, ducks and warblers have departed.

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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